Moxie is the Medium

Last Sunday I went to Bitterly Beach.  How is it that I have been back home in Maine for over five years now and it’s been almost two years since I last went to Reid State Park?  No, that cannot be right.

If it is true, my mood was elevated from the last time I was there.  I had Moxie on my mind.

As I think back to that time in March of 2017 when the world seemed so very dark, I’m amazed by the passage of time.  Is it time that heals our broken hearts and soothes our broken spirits?

“You sound so existential, Julie-Ann.”

A representative from a “Help Desk” in Ireland said that to me one day a few weeks ago while he was troubleshooting a broken rod or cone on my computer.  His voice sounded like Van Morrison.

It made me laugh.

Then I reconnected with an acquaintance from my University of Maine days and he told me “The Rockford Files” television show had been instructive to him as a young man.  And he made me laugh, too.

Finally, on Thursday, we had a Valentine’s Day bandit here in Lisbon.  There were orange hearts all over town.   It was heartwarming, to say the least.

And I do not want to forget…we’ve just selected the winning artwork for the Moxie Festival logo contest and there were so many lovely and inspiring stories behind the artwork.

Maybe it’s the Moxie that’s lightened my step.  Sure, I still have existential thoughts, but things seem brighter.

Moxie is the medium.

That’s got to be what it is.


Posted in You've Got Moxie! | Tagged , , ,

Let Brotherly Love Continue

This blog’s trajectory has often been along nostalgic back roads with frequent glances in the rear-view mirror.  Curated by third-person narrators like Aunt Tomato and Lady Alone Traveler, car trips in the present do sometimes dust off old hockey pucks and the ghost of Shawn Walsh.

Last weekend, I chased a 20-year-old hockey memory, taking a trip to the University of New Hampshire’s Whittemore Center.  As I crossed over the border, I wondered if I should have gone alone.  It would have been a sentimental journey in the classic Lady Alone Traveler style, my middle-aged self silently scribbling notes in my reporter’s notebook while eating popcorn in a loge seat.  But lately, when I talk about myself in the third person, I am “The Duchess of Moxie” in humble homage to the remarkable Kate, Duchess of Cambridge.  It didn’t seem right for a duchess to be jauntily zooming around alone at night, so I invited a friend to join me.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.  And I suppose it was, in part, because I became privy to someone else’s memory and I was thankful to learn that I was not alone in collecting memories and time trinkets.  Today, I share this story in muted tones so that everyone’s privacy is preserved and the compassion and love I heard does not die in the sweet six miles of car talk from the Spaulding highway exit to the University of New Hampshire’s Whittemore Center.

Jeff and I met in 1975 or so, classmates in school.  He moved away, I moved away, we moved back.  We crossed paths somewhere in our small town and through random conversations, we ended up making the 90-minute trip to watch the University of Maine Black Bears men’s ice hockey team play the University of New Hampshire’s Wildcats.  The rivalry between these two teams was once quite intense, reaching a crescendo when Maine beat UNH in the 1999 Frozen Four.

Jeff and I talked about hockey, marriages, and low-carbohydrate diets.

I didn’t feel like myself, but I kept my hands on the wheel and motored on.  I took Exit 6 West off the Spaulding Turnpike onto Route 4 towards Durham and Jeff picked up his phone to read a text.  He apologized and said his friend had died yesterday.

Like so many things in this broken world, the random juxtaposition of words like “friend” and “died” made my heart sink into the pit of my stomach.  I said “oh my gosh, I’m sorry” and then said nothing more, hoping my silence encouraged Jeff to tell me about his friend.

He did.  He told me about his friend’s difficult life and his struggles with the demons that would eventually kill him.  He told me about his friend’s humor and his loving heart.  Jeff told me how he had helped his friend, adopted as a baby, find his birth mother and know more about who he was.  Jeff said he had seen his friend in the hospital before he died and “I told him that I loved him.”

Approaching the awkward merge in the road at the top of Main Street in Durham, I looked over at the old Congregational church’s spire.  I wanted to reach over and touch Jeff, but I had no choice but to slowly navigate the lanes.  There was Wildcat Pizza on the left, empty as the last students scurried out to the game.

“I’m really sorry,” I said.

Are there any good words for death and loss and sadness?

UMaine beat UNH 5 – 3 and allegedly the Whittemore Center was sold out.  It didn’t feel that way.  The arena felt dark and dull except for the student cheering section.  Why wasn’t the UMaine band at the game?  Why was there no Stein Song to sing after every UMaine goal?  Why did Red Gendron seem like an old man creeping onto the ice after the second period?

When I woke up the next morning, tired from the trip and the late night, I kept thinking about this story and how Jeff’s very recent loss leaked out along the dark road to Durham.  I was so tired; maybe that was why I woke up crying and missing my own dead beloved relatives and friends.  Sunday morning dragged on with tissues and tears; I walked to a friend’s house and drank coffee.

I read the obituary in the paper a few days later and I thought of Jeff again.  He helped his friend, who he loved like a brother.  I thought of all those stupid and superficial commercials where the bonds of male friendship are subtly mocked with words like “bro,” “bromance,” “bro hug,” and a bag of Doritos.  No…that was not what I had heard on the dark road to Durham.

I heard what sounded like a Biblical friend, the type that loves at all times, is closer than a brother, and is born for adversity.  I heard what sounded like a lifetime of memories that will transcend time and loss.

Let brotherly love continue, Jeff.  Let brotherly love continue.

Posted in Lady Alone Traveler | Tagged , , ,

We Love Them

My dear philosopher friend “At Your Service” and I have been having a long conversation.  It started when he asked me why people hated the New England Patriots.  I didn’t know how to answer him.  After all, the successful football dynasty has occupied the arenas of our frigid January minds since approximately 2000.  Some call this the “The Brady/Belichick Era.”

Is an appreciation for excellence just part of our New England DNA?

I was not sure if “At Your Service” was a football fan.  I tried to find answers.  My best response was like a rug braided from random strips of whole cloth.

“I think people hate the Patriots because people in our culture hate themselves for their own lack of motivation.  They refuse to sublimate their desires and postpone their gratification long enough to achieve something great…perhaps people hate the Patriots because they don’t want to acknowledge that excellence and hard work pays dividends.”

Like any good philosopher, “At Your Service” wisely brought in Aristotle and Plato.  Our conversation continues.  We have not reached our final answers to the question of why people hate the New England Patriots so much.  We won’t, not in this lifetime.  “At Your Service” alludes to this when he says “what human nature is and what properly belongs to it is for philosophy to determine. This kind of knowledge requires intellectual discipline and is difficult to arrive at.  It is one of the end things Aristotle says only the few achieve. Who are these few?  Those who have the desire, ability, and opportunity to study human nature and arrive at a definition.”

If you do not have a philosopher friend, seek one.  I’m sure Tom Brady has spent more than a few hours in the arena of the frigid January mind searching for wisdom.  After all, the Patriots have not won EVERY Super Bowl in the Brady/Belichick Era.  Brady himself sounded a bit like a philosopher  the other day, when a young fan asked him:

“How are you able to focus despite the negative fan base, aka the haters?”

Brady laughed and said:

“…what do we do about the haters?  We love ‘em, we love ‘em, we love em’ back because we don’t hate back.  We appreciate it and we love em’ and we wish them the best in their life.”

Watch and listen.  It might just make you love Brady and the Patriots.

It’s been a long run.  We are still here.  We love them.

Posted in Just Writing | Tagged , , ,

If You Happen TB Lucky

I recently joined Instagram and began following both Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.  In the week leading up to last Sunday’s AFC title game, Brady and the Pats posted many curated images and videos to inspire their fan base.  One of these “hype videos” was a montage of Boston sports legends repeating parts of a longer inspirational message Brady first posted on April 19, 2018.

The hype video is well done.  I could watch it 100 times.  It is probably not something Brady whipped up in his basement.  He probably has a whole army of marketing and public relations staff creating these images.

I watched the game from a small middle-class living room and it felt like the collective energy of New England and Michigan (the only two regions of the country that don’t hate the Patriots) was being transmitted to Arrowhead Stadium.

The hype worked.

Monday was a holiday and I spent it cleaning up the yard.  I spent some time helping my father shovel and as I did, the following thought occurred to me.

“If you happen to be lucky, you can spend time shoveling with your 85-year-old father.”

Click on the Dibble Dabble to read an older shoveling story.

Lucky indeed.

Posted in Home | Tagged

Do You Mind Playing in Severe Cold?

I’m marking today as the day we hit “peak January” here in New England.  We are tired of hearing our furnaces run, the late December ice deposits are impervious to salt and calcium chloride, and a winter storm is sending nervous eaters to the grocery store.

I blogged about this topic on this very same day in 2016, giving further evidence to the old biblical theory that there is nothing new under the sun.

My blogging brain is a blank slate this month.  I have many stories in the “Blog Ideas” folder, but little time to develop them.

The New England Patriots livened up the dull landscape last Sunday.  Everyone I knew was extremely nervous before the game.  Extremely nervous.  My weekly football friends were predicting a loss.

“Phillip Rivers wants this game.  There will be no margin for error.”

But like I said, there is nothing new under the sun and the Patriots were victorious.  It’s made me wonder if the losses the team suffered on the road earlier this season were a calculated plan by The Hoodie to mess with mass minds.  He is that type of four-dimensional genius.

There was a slight tone of mockery in Brady’s voice on Sunday, after the Patriots defeated the Chargers 41 – 28.  He told a reporter in his post-game interview “I know everyone thinks we suck, we can’t win any games.  We’ll see.”

A few days ago, a reporter asked The Hoodie this question:

“Do you mind playing in severe cold?”

I have listened to Belichick’s straightforward and genius response at least 100 times because it makes me literally laugh out loud in these early morning hours.

“Love to play in a championship game.  Schedule it wherever you want.  We’ll be there.”

The team’s recent marketing campaign is crafty, too.  Or Krafty.  The playoff rally cry is “everything we got.”

The world hates the Patriots.  Whatchagonnado?

Here in the old hometown, my refrigerator is already stocked for the weekend and the game.

Salads.  I make salads.  Want a salad?  Come on over to my house and I’ll make you a salad.  But don’t come over on Sunday because I’ll be watching football with my nervous friends.


Posted in Cooking and Food | Tagged

Revisiting January

Last week, one of my work colleagues told me blogging was “out of style.”

It put a dull film on the days and I ended up stomping around on The Farm last weekend.

January is full of bleak hours and days.  I blogged about it years ago.

I have been out of style my whole life.  I think I’ll keep blogging.

Posted in Just Writing | Tagged

Under an Orange Colored Sky

Brad Paisley, a 46-year-old country music singer, apparently said “Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book.  Write a good one.”

The quote is oft-circulated at this time of year on social media.  Who doesn’t want to write a good book?  Damn, I just want to write a good blog post once a week.

Since October, I’ve been running some heavy fuel in my personal tank.  I haven’t been writing much.  Driving back and forth to the Franco Center, volunteering for more events than I can count on two hands.  Doing preliminary strategy work for the 2019 Moxie Festival.  Working at the polls.  Funerals.  Experiencing joy and sadness.  Inviting people to my house over the holidays and seeing every invitation accepted.  Cooking and cleaning like it’s 1949.  Entertaining for almost 48 hours straight over the New Year break and loving every minute of it.

Yes, I have burned some heavy fuel in the final quarter of 2018.

Heavy fuel, what’s that?  For Mark Knopfler, who wrote a song about it, heavy fuel was hamburgers, scotch, and cigarettes.  As Knopfler says, “if you want to run cool, you’ve got to run on heavy, heavy fuel.”  His fuel is not politically correct, is it?  He wrote some great rock and roll songs, though.  My fuel is a little different from Knopfler’s and hopefully a little more ladylike, but similarly post-modern.  Big salads, baked chicken, and Isagenix protein shakes.  Throw in a daily dose of anxiety and thirty trips up and down the stairs to my home office.  Oh, and a few Jeep trips to Market Basket in Biddeford with my pal Shelley to sort out the problems of the world and move faster than our feet can carry us.

Fellow writer and friend Karen Schneider brought me some orange flowers.  They are a good additive to the heavy fuel mix.

I have been unbelievably busy.  That’s how it is.  And while I do wish I had been born at a different time, it feels good to be alive here and now, writing the pages of this particular book and burning this heavy fuel.

Or maybe it’s heavenly fuel.

I got a card from one of my Junior League of Boston friends the other day.  She’s part of the JLB’s Garden Club and will be doing a flower arrangement for the “Art in Bloom” tour at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts in April.  She is so talented and excellence-oriented I know it will be magnificent.  She said “I hope they assign us a good piece of art.  So much easier to make an arrangement that compliments a rich oil painting than an austere piece of Art Deco furniture.”  I hope I have enough heavy fuel in my tank to see it.  And I do hope there are a few orange flowers in her arrangement.

2019 will be all about orange here in Lisbon Falls.  Orange flowers, orange t-shirts, orange envelopes, and orange aprons.  Orange books and blog posts.  If I follow the advice of Brad Paisley and Mark Knopfler, how can it be anything but good?

We are living under an orange colored sky.

I am making this song my theme song for 2019.  I love Moxie, my hometown, and my life in the here and now.   We’ve got a great committee of people working on this project and I think it just might be a “good book” albeit an orange colored one.

Thank you in advance for your orange colored prayers and thoughts.  Flash!  Bam!  Alakazam!

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