Symbolic Gestures

On Saturday, I had the honor of judging the “Miss Moxie Pageant” held at Lisbon Falls Baptist Church’s gymnasium.  I had never judged a beauty pageant before.  I wore a favorite Lily Pulitzer skirt, some Jack Rogers sandals, and carried my old high school Bermuda bag with a new cover.

Symbolic Gestures

I even had an opportunity to practice my “Duchess Slant

I know nothing about pageantry, but former USA National Miss Maine Shelby Cash did an excellent job of pulling the event together.  She prepared binders for the judges that included resumes of all the contestants.  Since my interviewing has been limited to corporate hiring, I was struck to read the resume of a pre-kindergarten contestant for the title of Junior Miss Moxie.  She’s already got 2 years of ballet under her belt and she “can’t wait to go to kindergarten.”

This was her third pageant.

Another Junior Miss Contestant’s resume said she knew her ABC’s, could count to 30, and knew the Greek alphabet.  She recited the latter for us during her interview.

The event was fabulous and I’m pleased I can now add “Pageant Judge” to my own resume.

Earlier in the day, at 2:00 a.m. to be exact, I woke up in a panic and jumped out of bed.  The Moxie Festival is 40 days away and in spite of my composure at the pageant, I’m freaking out a little bit inside.  There’s a lot to do and it’s time to move away from creating new ideas to implementing everything that’s ready to go.  With that in mind, I performed a “symbolic gesture” this morning.

I walked up to the Lisbon Industrial Park.  When I was in high school, we called it “The Oval.”  It was the sometimes route of track practice, a great place to learn how to drive a standard, and an occasional place for a clandestine beer with friends.  It’s also the staging location for the Moxie Festival Parade.

Using this as my starting point, I walked the parade route.  With ear buds pumping favorite songs into my auditory canal, I visualized what it will be like in 41 days when we get the Moxie show on the road.  Singing along with the Dropkick Murphys, I changed the lyrics of their classic song.  “We’re shipping up to Moxie…”

Listen, friends, I may not be able to write much here on the blog until Moxie is over.  You want me to live to tell about it, right?  I’ve got one too many plates spinning in the air right now.  So I will share some old posts from past festivals and we will meet here again in 40 days or so.

Please like The Moxie Festival page on Facebook and if you’re around town on July 12, 13, and 14th, I hope you’ll find me in the crowds and say “Hello.”

Posted in You've Got Moxie!

Battles in the Wilderness

On Friday, I drove up to the Citizen’s Gazebo on Route 196 in Lisbon Falls.  I still put the buntings on, even though the town now maintains the majority of the town’s showcase gardens.  According to the instructions on the bunting box Faye Brown gave me long ago, they go on at Memorial Day and stay up until “AFTER MOXIE.”

Parks & Recreation Department employee Wesley Walton was putting some final touches on the freshly mulched gardens and we chatted for a few minutes before he zipped off to finish beautifying our town.  I asked him what he was doing over the long weekend.  He’s young, maybe 25?  I was surprised when he told me he would be taking care of a family gravestone in a neighboring town.  Walton said “he died in the Civil War, the Battle of the Wilderness.”

I was impressed with this young man’s concern for old things.

The Battle of the Wilderness was a three day battle fought near Spotsylvania, Virginia from May 5 to May 7, 1864.  According to Wikipedia the skirmish was considered tactically inconclusive.  The battle area was in “dense wooded undergrowth” according to the American Battlefield Trust’s website.  Union Commander Ulysses S. Grant refused to retreat following the battle and told Secretary of War Edwin Stanton “I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer.

My yard maintenance is minimal in comparison to the privation and suffering of Civil War soldiers.  But I thought of their struggle as I did work in the undergrowth behind my tool barn last night.  It’s a constant battle keeping the ugly weeds and vine growth down.  I can mow some of it, but there are still small stumps that would dull the mower blade and I hack at them with my father’s axe.

My Wilderness

I could just let the undergrowth take over, but I love the lilac bushes that grow in the same space.  So I’ve resolved to fight it out with my mower and my axe.  I’ll do that all summer if that’s what it takes, God willing.

As I worked into the darkness, I thought about stories I wanted to write.  I thought about my gardens, and I thought through stories about gardens.  The two things are similar in that they are complex and multi-layered.  Gardens are full of roots and weeds.  You can’t just throw a small seedling or seed in the ground and expect it to suddenly sprout whole and complete from the ground.  It’s not Amazon, you know?

There is a current tendency to think there is a “lifestyle hack” for everything.  What?  You’re not acquainted with “lifestyle hacks?”  Wikipedia defines them as “any trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method that increases productivity and efficiency, in all walks of life.”

In the garden, a “hack” might be to dump Monsanto’s Roundup on undesirable weeds.  If you put “Roundup” in a search engine, the first page will include information about cancer caused by the herbicide.  I’m sure Roundup seemed like a good idea at the time.  Now, I’m not so sure.  Maybe the mower and the axe are better.

You can apply the “hack” metaphor to just about anything.  Feel free to do your own application.  Just remember the Roundup and some hacks are worse than others.

Here are some tulips from my “surprise garden” on the corner of Summer and Maple Streets here in town.  I’m still a member in good standing of the Green Thumb Gang and that’s been my spot since 2001.  It’s doing well and I’m thankful Wesley Walton and the Parks & Recreation crew mulch it for me.

Not Hacks

Thumbs up for Lisbon!

Posted in Garden Chic, Home | Tagged , , ,

The Existential Light

It’s been two weeks since I last blogged.  I want my faithful blog readers to know that although I’m not posting regularly, I am always writing stories in my head.  For instance, I’ve considered a piece called “My Father’s Axe.”

“My Father’s Axe” came to me one evening after the blessed time change.  Determined to get a jump start on the chores that multiply exponentially in May, I was working in the backyard.  I was hacking away at brush with various gardening implements including (wait for it) my father’s axe.  It had “been a day” as they say in the common parlance.  I realized I didn’t know much about using an axe and it irritated me.

You know, of course, that you don’t split wood with an axe, right?  You use a wedge and a maul.

Nevertheless, the axe worked well on the thorny roots and I took out the day’s frustrations on the ground behind the barn.  I was a bit like Saul of Tarsus before his conversion, still breathing out threats against the day’s dilemmas.

And because this is a beautiful digital space, I try not to verbalize such existential moments of desperation.  Or I tone them down in a soft, flowery and perfumed ladylike light.  I might text a friend with a delicate “I broke a few dishes in the basement today.  Everything’s ok, though.”

I camouflage such things as sadness and loneliness with the swirling cloud of busy dust I leave behind when I step on the gas in my beloved Jeep.  Yeah, it has a 5.7 liter V-8 Hemi.  That’s probably a different blog story, though.

This particular evening, I hacked away at the ground while ruminating on all these things.  And I did cry out to God.

I hate doing that.  Not because I don’t believe in God’s bigness, but because crying out suggests that I’ve not been consistent in regular conversations, thus precipitating a need to shout to my heavenly father.


Nothing happened.  At least not immediately.  I kept striking at the thorny roots in a very ugly fashion.

Then from my peripheral vision, I sensed a light in the dark gully behind my house.

The Existential Light

What the hell?

It was too dark to go down into the gully safely.  Was it a bomb?  Something left by a gang of teenagers to mark a stash of drugs?  My mind was working overtime to solve the mystery.  Then it came to me.

It was the solar light I had ditched last summer!  It had stopped working while in its upright position next to my flowers, but it had survived and was illuminating the darkness again.

I’ve thought about this “sign” many times in the last few weeks.  Sometimes when I’m out in the garden in the evening, I peek over the banking to see if the light is still there and I’m pleasantly surprised to see it shining.

Insert an entire book of Psalm-like thanks to God here.

68 days until the Moxie Festival…God help us all!

Posted in You've Got Moxie! | Tagged

I Have Considered That

The other day, I found a beautiful decorative “tablet” someone had given me many years ago.  What is a beautiful decorative tablet?  I don’t know.  I couldn’t think of any other way to describe it.

Easter 2019

It’s approximately 7 by 10 inches and quite lovely.

When I received it, I didn’t know what to do with it.  I scribbled this on the inside cover:

“John Boy Walton was exceedingly grateful when his father gave him a package of writing tablets for Christmas.  Remember?  In the ‘Homecoming.’  Perhaps I am ungrateful.  I have considered that.”

Today is Easter Sunday, 2019.  I will go to church with my parents and then we’ll have dinner at J.R. Maxwell’s in Bath.  We’ll come back to my house and have some coffee and dessert.

I have my outfit planned out.  I wonder if it would be obnoxious to wear a hat?  I have a nice neutral number I could pull out, although I’ve been saving it for a Kentucky Derby party.  It will look obnoxious at that gathering as well.  After all, this is Maine, not Myopia.

It will be a last-minute decision, pending hair and weather.

Perhaps I am ungrateful for this abundance of riches I contemplate this overcast and drizzly Easter Sunday.

I have considered that.

Posted in Today We Rest | Tagged , ,

A Palm Sunday Rumination

I first thought of calling today’s post “Symbols of Strength” because I’ve been reading about the D-Day Invasion, or Operation Overlord.  I would like to better understand the logistical details of this giant military operation.  How did it go from an idea to the largest seaborne invasion in history?  How did all 320,000 Allied boots hit the ground?  It’s mind-boggling to me.  These are the things I think about as I drift off to sleep with my glasses on.

Spring here in Maine has been slow to start.  There were some promising early April days; everyone pulled out their rakes and started cleaning up the leaves covered by last November’s early snow.  But then it got cold again and …it snowed again.  Snow on April 8.  Can you believe it?  We had to cancel the Moxie Festival committee meeting scheduled for that evening.

My mother, who celebrated her 81st birthday last Sunday, texted me a few days after the storm to let me know she found “one yellow crocus” peeping through the leaves and snow at her house.

Snow or no, I’ve recommitted myself to my Green Thumb Garden.  I’ve blogged extensively about the garden spot I created in 2001, but I did not share anything about it last summer.  That’s because the town did some paving on my special corner of Lisbon Falls and my garden took a hit.  It was not a complete loss; in fact, it was not a loss at all.  It was a change.

But when I first saw it last summer, it grieved my heart.  I thought about the hours of work and unquantifiable amounts of heart love and hometown pride I had put into that spot.  The paving made me sick to my stomach.  I couldn’t drive by the corner and I couldn’t tend to my garden.  I e-mailed Cherie at the Parks & Recreation Department.  Maybe I was a little “butt hurt.”  (Butt hurt:  an excessive or unjustifiable feeling of personal offense or resentment.)  Cherie felt bad and she said she would look into it.

Mark Stevens, the Parks & Recreation Director, assigned one of his staff to fix it up.  But I didn’t know about this because in my offended state, I avoided my beloved corner.  Instead of resurrecting my garden spot, I spent last summer stomping around my home gardens; I didn’t tell anyone about the troubles at the “Surprise Garden.”  In my mind, it felt like there was darkness all around that corner.  Most people in town probably didn’t even notice any changes in “Julie Baumer’s Garden on the corner of Summer and Maple.”

You know, it’s really not easy to move back to your home town.  When you only come home on weekends to plant flowers, you can be butt hurt from a distance and no one knows.  But when you live in the place where you grew up, after a 25 year hiatus, it’s damn complicated.  Then add the complexity of coordinating the town’s showcase event and you might say it ain’t easy being the Duchess of Moxie.

And because of Moxie, I steeled my nerves and decided to take the corner back.  I went to the April 2 Green Thumb Garden meeting and said I’d take care of the spot.  I met some new gardening neighbors.

During the promising early April days I mentioned earlier, I cleaned up my corner.  It was hard to face it; it seemed so big and barren.

Julie Baumer Garden

I’m not sure what perennials will come back and what things got plowed over.  But I like all the mulch and when look at it from every angle, I think there is promise in that spot.  It needs me as much now as it ever did.  It’s time to recreate some of the beauty that is missing.

And it’s a great corner for promoting the Moxie Festival.  Speaking of which, I just got some quotes for the portable toilets we rent.  As one might say, “the shit’s starting to get real.”  No pun intended.

As I sit here this Palm Sunday morning, I look out and see the river through the trees.  It’s overcast and the weather guessers are predicting rain later today.  Maine moves incrementally into spring.  I’d better get out there and stomp around a bit before the weather changes.

Posted in Weather and Seasons | Tagged , , ,

The Rusty Lantern

I have a few regular blog readers.  Some are old and true friends from before the internet.  Some are good friends accumulated over time and living.  Some I’ve never met in the material world.  I don’t know how this latter class of readers found me as I do not promote my blog.  I don’t share it on social media.  A few weeks ago, I added the hashtag “lifestyle blogger” and this shook the algorithm up.  I acquired a few new bots.  Be that as it may, I probably only have 100 followers.

That’s an empty gas tank in the digital world.

Perhaps these readers enjoy my posts about ennui and world-weariness.  Maybe they’re fans of opera broadcasts and like me uttered a loud “UGH” when they tuned in to hear Wagner’s Die Walküre on Saturday’s “Live from the Met” broadcast.  What could be worse than that dark and brooding opera on an overcast March day in Maine, where everything is still dead and dirty?   Sure, sure…the “Ride of the Valkyries” leitmotif was thrilling, but it barely lifted my spirits above the “I need a serotonin reuptake inhibitor to deal with these still-frozen leaves in my sun drop bed” level.

We’ve already discussed and concluded that blogging, thank you notes, and the Oxford comma have gone the way of the dodo.  Like spring gloves, when this blog is gone, there will be a brief period of lamentation, some wailing and gnashing of teeth, and then everyone will look at their phones again.  Or their transponders or chips or whatever replaces the slim packet of rare earth minerals we embrace more lovingly than our children, aging parents, and our communities.

Pass me a cup of coffee, quick!

Last fall, a Rusty Lantern gas station and convenience store opened in Lisbon Falls.  Citizens and route 196 commuters watched the project with curiosity.  I passed it on my walks to the post office and wondered how it would change our town.  Uncle Bob suggested it would snarl and increase traffic on my street.

I serendipitously stopped in the day of the grand opening and bought a Rusty Lantern Contigo-brand coffee mug, guaranteeing me ninety-nine cent coffee refills for life.  I was introduced to the owner and the manger as “the Moxie Lady” and I’m pleased to say the Rusty Lantern did make a “Chugger” level sponsorship donation.  We received it a few weeks ago and I’m happy to be partnering with them to make the 2019 Moxie Festival great.

I enjoy popping into the store and chatting with the men and women who work there.  They all have stories to tell and I like hearing them in person instead of reading about it on Facebook or seeing it on Instagram.

As they say in the popular vernacular, “it’s all good.”

One regular customer told me “The Rusty Lantern is just what this town needed” and I’d have to agree.  It’s a little bit of what I needed too.

What I really need, though, is 50,000 people lined up on the Moxie Festival Parade route at 10:00 a.m. on July 13, 2019, waving orange pom poms.  That’s my mission right now.

104 days.  Bring it!

Posted in Home, Just Writing, You've Got Moxie! | Tagged , ,

Go In Peace

In 2012, I wrote a blog post about St. Patrick’s Day.

You can read it here.

I don’t think I would change anything about this post today except to add that the band Thin Lizzy was among the small list of Irish influences in my parochial Franco American and German childhood.  I often think about the ways in which music infused my early life and how words from songs inspired me.  I owned a large but not exhaustive collection of Thin Lizzy vinyl and confess to listening to their 1979 release Black Rose: A Rock Legend countless times, especially enjoying “Do Anything You Want to Do.”

This St. Patrick’s Day, I’m listening to With Heart and Voice, a weekly program of sacred choral and organ music.  They’re featuring works from Ireland’s sacred musical heritage.  Included in the playlist was a performance of “I Bind Unto Myself Today,” based on the prayer “St. Patrick’s Breastplate.”  This powerful and defiant prayer is akin to St. Paul’s “whole armor of God” outlined in the sixth chapter of Ephesians.

Here’s a lovely version of the hymn.

St. Patrick’s Breastplate and associated prayers and hymns are inspiring meditations, quite different from today’s cartoonish depiction of Hibernians seen today, awash in corned beef and Guinness.


Posted in Weather and Seasons | Tagged , , ,

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 , , ,