Girl, Shovel Your Driveway

My cousin Margaret is skiing in New Mexico next week.  Doesn’t that sound glamorous?  She told me about it today and I’ll admit, I was a little envious.  Not because I ski or would like to ski, but because large resorts full of vigorous men and women in strange plastic boots sounds wonderful.  And winter resort culture is full of words like “bluebird skies,” “freshly groomed corduroy,” and “gondola.”

And the potential shared chair lift with an interesting stranger who tells a good story.  What could be better than that?

We sprang forward today and I won’t bore you with links to past time change rants.  The fix for today’s time torment was to get dressed up in sunglasses and a vintage fur coat for a trip to Market Basket before the snow flies.

I think I have finally become the early 80’s clip art I used to laugh about.

May Day May Day

Here in Maine, we’re having a little snow again.  I considered a courtesy shovel a few hours ago but it’s still snowing at a good clip.  And it’s still light!  So I’m heading out to shovel in earnest and survey my small empire here on Blethen Street.

And with that, dear readers, I leave you to your own time change machinations.

Oh, wait!  I was on the radio this week, talking about Moxie.  You should listen to it.  My portion of the interview begins at 46:58.

Thanks, Bob and Sheri, for inviting me to your show.  And thanks to all the interesting people who read my blog and sometimes even mention it on their own blogs.

Posted in Lady Alone Traveler, You've Got Moxie! | Tagged , , ,

In the Rear-view Mirror

A few days ago, I bolted onto Route 196 in my Jeep, seizing an opportunity between speeding cars.  I’ve blogged about this busy road before and readers will be happy to know a true crosswalk was installed near the new Rusty Lantern convenience store late last year.  The Rusty Lantern?  That’s a different story for another day.  Be that as it may, I righted the vehicle after my rapid merge and rearranged myself for a short trip to Lisbon Center.


As part of my rearrangement, I checked my mirrors.  Nothing on the right, nothing on the left.  Then the rear-view.

What’s this?

My cat’s eye vision zeroed in on the olive-green Ford Escape behind me.  Could it be?  I squinted my focus on the license plate and confirmed it was indeed my parents.

Herman and Helen have more appointments and commitments than anyone I know.  I hear about their activities via daily texts from my mother.  There might be an eye doctor’s appointment, a funeral, or a visit to an elderly friend in a nursing home.  Sometimes, they drag Uncle Bob along with them and this particular day, I think they were all going to the big box store to help said uncle buy a new Tee Vee.  Helen texted me earlier, saying “Uncle Bob’s TV conked out.”

I don’t know if they saw me or now.  I tried to slow down enough for Herman to catch up with me, but I’m sure he was focused on getting to Auburn safely and securely.  Thank goodness.

We’re in “Moxie Fundraising Mode” right now.   Because the festival does not run on love and volunteer power alone, I’ve been busy writing and sending “ask” letters to local businesses.  I’ve been “asking” them to support the festival financially.

I composed a brief, heartfelt letter and sent it out.

The first wave of money is rolling in.

Whenever someone gives you money, whether it be for your birthday, wedding, or hometown summer festival, proper thanks should be promptly given.  Sure, we’ll publicly thank all of our sponsors on our website and various social media outlets, but this year I am elevating my appreciation with a handwritten thank you note.

So that’s why I missed last week’s blog post.

I don’t know if it makes a difference to send a handwritten thank you note anymore, but I’m going to do it anyway.  Because when you’re doing something in the public sphere, whether it’s driving to Lisbon Center or running a local summer festival, there is always someone in the rear-view mirror watching your actions.  I don’t want to let them down.

For Moxie and the hometown, I am thankful.

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

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