Listen

Hello?
Is there anybody in there?
Just nod if you can hear me
Is there anyone at home?

Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd

Do you ever feel like when you are talking to people – whether it’s in person or on the phone that they are not listening? I was chatting on the phone with my daughter earlier, she had called me; when after telling her a little tidbit of info, I was met with complete silence. Hello? Hello? I knew the line hadn’t dropped out because I could still hear something on the other end of the line.

“What? What did you say again? Sorry, I got distracted by something on my screen.”

Communication comes from the Latin word communicare, meaning “to share”. Thanks to my high school Latin teacher, Mr. Frank Smith, I always look at the root word when trying to fully understand words. Communication is a two way street, although I find that these days more and more people seem to think it’s a one-way street. People are more concerned with making sure their points are heard than actually giving the effort to actually listen to someone else’s thoughts or ideas. The key to all effective communication is listening.

Listening is a huge part of the communication process and should not be confused with hearing. Hearing is defined as “the faculty or sense by which sound is perceived.” So as long as you don’t have a medical hearing impairment – hearing is an automatic physical process. Listening on the other hand is completely different. Listening requires focus and concentration. It’s the ability to accurately receive and interpret messages in the communication process. It’s not a passive process and a good listener is as engaged in the communication process as the speaker.

Group Of Business People Actively Listening To Speaker Giving Presentation

Today, sadly, too many people don’t know the difference between hearing and listening. “I hear you” is not the same as “I’m listening to you.” I’m sure many people think that they are indeed listening, but they actually are not. In some cases, people are simply thinking about what their response will be once you’re done talking – that is, if they are polite enough not to interrupt you in order to get their point across. Part of the problem stems from the fact that the average person’s speaking rate is 125-175 words per minute compared to the average processing rate which is 400-800 words per minute. So that leaves plenty of time to daydream and get distracted by your own thoughts or something completely not related. FOCUS PEOPLE. This is one of the biggest barriers to effective listening.

Too many times while visiting with friends or family who we don’t see all that often, I notice everyone has their phones in their hands while they are talking. “I’m listening – I’m just multitasking”. “I have to check my email – don’t worry I’m listening.” “I’m just playing a word game, keep talking – I’m listening.” how many times have we all heard this. The listener isn’t being an active participant in the conversation if their phone is in their hand. I’m equally guilty of this when hanging out at times. I’ve been accused of “not being present” because I had my head in my phone while claiming “I’m just looking at my Instagram feed!” Guilty as charged.

Listening serves a number of purposes given the situation and the nature of the communication. According to the website skillsyouneed.com one of the eight purposes to listening is to: “to specifically focus on the message being communicated, avoid distractions and preconceptions.” (I think we need to teach this specifically in schools because no one out there gets the second part of this statement.)

Let’s break this down, I think most people would agree that when you listen its for the purpose to hear someone ‘s message being communicated. But its the rest of the statement which people don’t heed: “avoid distraction and preconceptions”. Wow! Where to begin… I already mentioned the cellphone being a major distraction which I think most people would agree is an obvious barrier to effective listening in all of our lives. But let’s focus on this other part, the “preconceptions”. I don’t think very many people actually listen with an open mind. People have their beliefs and that’s that – my way or the high way. Or so it seems more and more these days.

The second and third purposes of listening is “gain a full and accurate understanding into the speakers point of view and ideas and to critically assess what is being said.” Wait a minute, this is particularly where for me listening deviates from hearing since when you hear something it’s just automatic, when you are listening you have to know take that information and actually processes what is being said.

The fourth purpose of listening includes the power of observation. When you listen to someone you should be looking at them, observing the non-verbal signals accompanying what is being said. This enhances your understanding of what’s going on.

Fifth on the list of purposes of listening, is to show interest, concern and concentration. If you have ever been a public speaker and stood before an audience – big or small, or even if you are talking to your best friend – there is nothing worse than talking to the top of someone’s head because their attention is more on their phone than what you are saying. which leads to the sixth reason which is to encourage the speaker to communicate fully, openly and honestly. Something which can be difficult if you think the people you are trying to talk to are not fully present.

When you are “multi-tasking” while listening to someone else, you are being selfish, rather than taking a selfless approach, in putting the speaker first. Lastly, one of the biggest reasons for listening is to be able to arrive at a shared and agreed understanding and acceptance of both sides’ views. This last reason proves to me that no one in politics actually listens to one another.

This year I am trying much harder to put my phone down particularly when I am around my family and friends. Emails can wait and certainly word games can be played in quiet moments when I’m alone. When I go out I may have my phone with me in my pocket or purse, but I keep it put away so I’m not distracted nor tempted by it. It’s really the only way to fully listen and pay attention to what’s going on around us. So next time you are talking with a friend and you notice that you are looking more at the top of their head than their eyes, you’ll know they aren’t really listening to you.

“Listening is art that requires

attention over talent,

spirit over ego

and others before self. “

– Dean Jackson

In the Blink of an Eye

[Note to the reader: This is a post which I update from time to time. The original post was in 2013]

In the blink of a eye…it’s 2019…We have been living in New Hampshire on the side of a mountain 1500 feet up with a spectacular view for a little over two years.  A simpler life, yet we work all the time, trying to build our two businesses. Our puppy Marley is now 5 years old and all our beautiful Brittanys have passed away – God bless their souls. They all lived long and wonderful lives, Winston and Artemis being able to come and enjoy our new home in the mountains. Now our two mini-goldendoodle brothers, Boomer and Gunner are going to be turning 2 in May! Where did the time go?!  


Left to right:
Gunner, Boomer, Kona and Marley


Yesterday I hugged my 25 year old son and his 3 year old goldendoodle before they left to head down to the Connecticut house. He has been living there for the last 15 months after leaving college in Vermont. It wasn’t working out for him – he is still struggling to get on the right track.

Baby Blue on his way to his new home


In the blink of an eye…it’s 2018…yesterday I watched my daughter receive her college diploma and make the Dean’s list. It seems like yesterday I dropped her off for her first day of school and drove her to endless hours of tutoring.  Now she’s living with her one-year old puppy in Portland, Maine and trying to find that first foothold in her graphic design career.

There is no waving the Mommy magic wand and making things all better for them – they are in the big, bad, world now and I can’t protect the from everything like I once was able to. I tried my hardest to give them the skills to fly on their own – I pray I did enough. I probably did too much – coddling to make up for the divorce. I hope I didn’t do too much. That would be a disservice to them ultimately. It’s a fine line we have to walk as parents.


Baby Kona



In the blink of an eye…it’s 2016…yesterday I hugged my son and his new puppy goodbye after setting the up their new apartment in Burlington. I pray he is able to move forward from the tragedy and get his life back on track in this new environment. 

In the blink of an eye …it ‘s 2015…I hugged my son’s 21 year old girlfriend good-bye after seeing Dead & Company with them on Halloween night. She wasn’t feeling well and was coming down with an ear infection. A perfect storm of a bacterial and viral infection in her inner ear would cause sepsis.  In a blink of an eye – 11 days later – she was dead. 

In the blink of an eye…it was 2013….Yesterday was my son’s 20th birthday. It amazes me how certain things seem like they were yesterday but at the same time it was a lifetime ago.  Twenty years ago I lived in Rochester Hills, Michigan; I was married and a brand new parent to baby boy. I had a Shetland sheepdog and I was approaching 30.  Today, I live in Connecticut, I am divorced almost for 10 years, have two grown adults for children. I have four dogs, all Brittanys and I am approaching 50. I also live my boyfriend of three years. Yet it seems like yesterday I was in Michigan having my first born. 

“A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference.” Winnie the Pooh Peace – Xine S.

The More Things Change The More They Stay The Same

Post I wrote but never published from June 2012:
Welcome and forgive my absence, as usual a lot has been happening around here. Life is constantly throwing things at you just when you think you’re at the finish line – an obstacle gets thrown up in front of you.  It’s June and graduation season is here and in ten days my son will be graduating from high school.  It’s been a long, hard road at times.  The finish line was clearly in sight, he had just a few weeks and he would be done.  All it took was an unfortunate push from behind during a lacrosse game while he was coming out from the goal resulting in a torn ACL needing surgery to make the sprint to the finish line more of a hurtle.
The surgery was 9 days ago but it feels like its been a month.  The first week, twenty four hours a day his knee has been on ice requiring me to fill up the ice machine multiple times a day and once during the overnight.  He had to be given medication as well on top of having to use a CPM (continuous Passive Motion) machine for 6 hours a day. 
It’s been hard to do anything around here to say the least.  Since the surgery I have only been out once and that was with him to go to the physical therapist.  He still has to finish his senior project, a photography portfolio of his work in order to graduate which is due next week. His prom is next week too. 
He did the same thing to his leg last year but earlier in the season. This kid has been injured every single year of high school playing lacrosse. The first two years it was concussions. The second concussion was so severe he was out of school for 24 days and had headaches for months before finally disappearing altogether. 

I reread the post above which I never published at the time for reasons I don’t remember and I get knot in my stomach.  Eight days ago I received a phone call from Nick, my son who is now a freshman at Ithaca College. I had just finished a long relaxing bath after my metal sculpting class (washing is required afterwards since I look like I’ve been down in the coal mines). My cell phone went off around 2pm but I didn’t recognize the number and almost didn’t pick up. It was Nick, he sounded upset and scared. He said he had been in an accident snowboarding.  My first thought – his knees and did he hit his head.  It was difficult to understand him a little – his breathing was labored which I figured was from him being so emotional.  He tells me he thinks he dislocated his shoulder or something – I relax. Dislocated shoulder, not problem we’ve dealt with much worse.  I tell him everything will be okay and that he should keep me posted and that I’d call his Dad who was also in Vermont at the time. He said okay and hung up.

It was long before he called again and said that the EMTs at the base lodge told him he didn’t have a dislocated shoulder and recommended that he get x-rays at the hospital. Since I was no where near Nick and I was getting the information via text message and poor-cell connected short calls, my concern level wasn’t tremendously high at this point. Nick has complained in a text about waiting with all the other morons in the emergency room and how he just wanted to go an hang with his friends. I was afraid he’d leave if the wait was too long.  I was in bed watching TV when he finally called me again. He put the doctor on the phone who proceeded to tell me that Nicholas punctured his lung, bruised his kidney and could have a hairline fracture in one of his lower lumbar vertebrae. He recommended that Nick stay the night in the hospital although he said that Nick wanted to go back the condo and stay with his friends and just rest.  It was at the time I had my boyfriend who is training to be an EMT who told me that the doctor couldn’t force Nick to stay their legally – all he could do was urge Nick to stay.  “Put Nick back on” were my next words.  He was scared and didn’t want to be alone in the hospital. I told him had to stay  – it had become clear he had suffered a traumatic impact –  that I’d get his father to get down there as quickly as possible – but he had to stay with the doctors. I was relieved when he finally agreed.

Some people rely on the groundhog to predict spring – we have Nick’s annual injury which seems to have become our own personal indicator of spring. However, so much has change in our household since Nick’s first injuries in high school.  Nick is in college – struggling to find his way through making the transition from living at home to living at college and being responsible for one’s self.  I have been in a relationship with a wonderful man who I’ve known for 25 years. We will celebrate our second anniversary of being together in May and has lived with us for the last 18 months or so.  We also started a new business together, Homegrown Harvest where we help people grow their own vegetables by installing pre-seeded and planted raised bed and container gardens for them.  My daughter has been on her own journey throughout the years. 17 now, she is a junior in high school who has been on her own journey of self discovery. Another story for another blog entry, I’m sure.

Change happens in all sorts of ways. Sometimes it happens fast and sometimes its gradual.  It can be painful. But overall change is good, it means your life isn’t stagnant.  Life should be like a flowing river – at times there maybe rapids and it gets narrow and rocky. Other times it flows slower, calmer and stretches out comfortably.  Either way the river is in constant motion.  Sometimes in life we don’t always feel like we are making forward progression that we may have taken a few steps backwards from time to time. That’s life on the river – it can sometimes lead you down a false tributary that leads to an end where the waters lay stagnant. It’s your decision to get out and find the right path though. Sure it will take a lot of effort and energy at first as you have to work your way through the marshes and blaze your trail back where you eventually find the waters flowing again and lift you along with them. Just remember you are the one steering the boat. You are the one making the decisions to set a new course – to make that change despite how difficult it may be. 

My brother taught me this lesson when I was 25 years old and engaged to someone I realized was not the right person for me in the long run and I felt trapped and scared and alone. Some of this may have been because I was drunk off my ass when I had this epiphany in the bathroom of my godparents’ house as my future in-laws and my fiance’s two brothers were showing up to meet my parents and family for the first time. I was in there for 3 hours terrified to come out.  I eventually let me best friend in and my sister in law in. After many hours I emerged from the bathroom and hid in my cousin’s room where my brother gave me I have dubbed “The Path Talk”.  He was the one who told me the story of being on a path in life and discovering it wasn’t the path.  He said when that happens you can always change paths but sometimes you may have to get your machete out and blaze a new trail to a new path and that can get messy and take a lot of effort but in the end you will find a clear path for yourself.  I have lived by these words over the years and found them to be some of the greatest words to live by.

Angels Needed

This week as I gazed upon my Christmas tree, I cried a river of tears for the victims, their families and their friends who are faced which such a tragic loss at this time.  My tree has an angel on the top, she’s a beautiful angel with a porcelain head, pretty wings and dress made of netting.  She’s holding two candles and a light from within makes her glow.  I grew up with a star on our Christmas tree. As I recall it was a fairly cheesy looking thing too with tinsel and colored lights. When I was old enough to get my own Christmas tree, I used a star at first something similar to the one I grew up with.

The angel came about by perhaps divine intervention. I had stumbled upon a late night Christmas movie, The Bishop’s Wife starring David Niven, Cary Grant and Loretta Young. It’s a fabulous classic Christmas movie and as late as it was that night sucked me in immediately. Cary Grant plays an angel in the movie sent down to help David Niven who plays the Bishop. 

The movie originally came out in 1947 shortly after WWII. It was a time when many were trying to rebuild their post-war lives and their was still a great need for stories of nostalgia, hope and faith.  Our world is vastly different than it was in 1947, but the need for stories of hope and faith are just as great today if not more.  Today’s world is a very frightening place where we are no longer safe at college, a movie theater, a mall or even a elementary school.   A tragedy of the magnitude of Sandy Hook brings people together. It touches so many people beyond the victims and their families because most everyone has been a first grader at some point, or are a parent who has sent their children off to school, or may have a teacher in their family and because of this all wonder my god what if that had been me, or my child, or my sister or mother?

The pain and grief I have felt this week is eerily similar to the way I felt after 9/11. I was born and raised in New York City which caused me to feel the attack on my birthplace as very personal. A friend’s husband lost his life that day and many of my friends who worked in the financial district had been devastated by their experiences of what they witnessed and tales of escaping the city. I knew our world would never be the same after that. Misuse of religion, power, box cutters and airplanes caused that tragic day.  In Newtown, Connecticut a young man who was mentally ill killed his mother because he was afraid she was going to have him committed.  He decided to misuse three guns and because of it there are now 26 new angels who no longer walk this earth.

Angel

Shortly after reading this news it reminded me of the Boomtown Rats song, “I Don’t Like Mondays”. In 1979, Brenda Spenser shot 9 people, 2 adults and 7 children from her house which was across the street from her home.

The silicon chip inside her head gets switched to overload
And nobody’s gonna go to school today
She’s gonna make them stay at home….

The more things change the more they stay the same it seems.

I don’t consider myself to be a very religious person. I was not raised in a religious household. I do not go to church regularly.  I used to be a “submarine church goer”, only surfacing at Christmas and Easter – but eventually stopped doing that since it felt hypocritical.  However, I silently speak with the Lord and Jesus Christ regularly – at times before bed, sometime in the car or while traveling on a plane.  I do have hopes, dreams and wishes for myself, my children, my loved-ones. I try very hard to have faith in myself that I continue to raise my two children safely in this very frightening and dangerous world. I hope and pray that somehow they will be able to raise their own children one day in a world which hopefully will have learned some lessons from the past and changed it course not to repeat the fateful mistakes.

Life is filled with challenging moments. The holidays are a time when people are supposed to be happy; making it a thousand times harder for those who are not.  The last eight years I have been divorced and forced to share time with my kids on holidays or not see them at all. The pain the first Christmas day that I had to say goodbye to them in the morning and watch them drive off with their father was agonizing for me. I felt like a part of me had been ripped away and I just wanted to cry all day and stay under the covers of my bed. Instead I was supposed to go to my parent’s house to share Christmas dinner with my parents, my siblings and their kids.  It was awful. I think one holiday I actually did stay home and wallow in my self-pity. The rest, somehow I found the strength to join the festivities despite my broken heart.  As the years have marched on holidays remain challenging, although each year a little less so. I have been blessed these last two years for I have been able to share them with my new love, my boyfriend, Mark.

Life goes on and time helps to heal most of the wounds which have been inflicted on us. The scars left on us by life should be worn on us with pride for they help make up who we are and how we came to be there. Some people’s scars are bigger than others and some may have wounds that never fully heal; for how can someone every fully heal from the lose of their own child?

It’s three days before Christmas and I will close my thoughts with a speech the Bishop gives to his congregation Christmas morning reminding us to remember what Christmas is all about.

Tonight I want to tell you the story of an empty stocking.

Once upon a midnight clear, there was a child’s cry, a blazing star hung over a stable, and wise men came with birthday gifts. We haven’t forgotten that night down the centuries. We celebrate it with stars on Christmas trees, with the sound of bells, and with gifts.

But especially with gifts. You give me a book, I give you a tie. Aunt Martha has always wanted an orange squeezer and Uncle Henry can do with a new pipe. For we forget nobody, adult or child. All the stockings are filled, all that is, except one. And we have even forgotten to hang it up. The stocking for the child born in a manger. Its his birthday we’re celebrating. Don’t let us ever forget that.

Let us ask ourselves what He would wish for most. And then, let each put in his share, loving kindness, warm hearts, and a stretched out hand of tolerance. All the shinning gifts that make peace on earth.

“A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference.” Winnie the Pooh
 Peace – Xine S.

The Fine Art of Communication

I’ve been reading a bunch of stuff lately about various people’s life stories.  Yesterday I finished reading a novel by yet another of my incredibly gifted old classmates, Kim Green entitled, hallucination. Its touching story about a woman’s life journey flows effortlessly off the pages, or in my case my Kindle screen.

In some ways, I could relate to main character, Morgan, she too attended an upper east side private girls school.  Originally I thought that would be all I would share with this character when I was first introduced to her. But as got to know her more through this beautiful story I discovered we share a love of dancing, music, travel, children and writing.  I don’t share her struggles however I, too have gone through my own failed marriage and deal with my own dysfunctional family.

I understand what’s it like to begin a life with someone – a life with so much hope for the future, just to watch it disintegrate despite your best efforts.  One person can not save a marriage. A marriage is an intimate relationship which when one partner ceases to be involved in the caring, communicating and nurturing  – it falls apart.  This need for communicating is not reserved simply for preserving relationships of husbands and wives.

I have a brother who lives in New York City who I only see on the occasional holiday now.  We used to very close as kids but our busy life paths took us very far apart and unfortunately have kept us that way – at least for now.  We hardly talk on any sort of regular basis. Matter of fact, its been so long that to pick up the phone would be weird. Plus who ever knows when its a good time to talk. So a few months ago I decided to start sending the occasional text to see if I could break the ice and get the conversation flowing again. It’s kind of working I guess – there has been some exchange – a step in the right direction considering we didn’t have even that before. So I’ll take it as a positive.

The need for communicating between family members is as important in maintaining those relationships as it is with your friends.  I have a friend who if I want to hear from her I have to initiate the call. This has gone on for years and years because I let it. But she has shunned the electronic world and my best efforts to get together, so we don’t talk so much anymore unfortunately.  I don’t enjoy talking on the phone too much. I find it difficult to single-handedly multitask during a busy day.  If the conversation is long my elbow gets stiff and aches the rest of the day. I still ache from my 45 minutes phone conversation I had with my sister six hours ago! If its not face-to face, my main form of communicating with people is via text or chat behind one of our word or dice games we play on our phones.

Some people were hesitant to get on board with email and now they hate texting or don’t know how to do it,  or they don’t do social networking.  To each their own but I couldn’t do it. My son is in college and he calls me weekly. His phone conversation skills are improving.  We text each other intermittently and we also follow each other on Facebook and Instagram.  I am part of his conversation with the “social world”.

I find having an ongoing dialogue important particularly with my children. This can get difficult as grow up, go to college and eventually leave home and start their own family. If this is their way of communicating, I must join in. Recently as we were preparing for Hurricane Sandy,  I started a family group text which included my parents, siblings and a sister-in-law to make it easier to stay in touch in case anyone lost phones and power. Everyone in the family who lives Connecticut lost power whereas the New York contingency didn’t.  My parents liked the intermittent exchanges of stray comments and photos they asked us to keep the conversation going after the power outages were over. They said they left more a part of our daily lives and less isolated. As a parent of a child who lives away at college I have a better understanding of this now.

In Kim’s book, Morgan’s father repeatedly pleads for his daughter’s attention demanding more frequent phone calls as her life path takes her across the country away from him and the home she grew up in.  That’s our role in life as parents, to raise our children so they an stand on their own two feet and start their own families. It’s just as parents we’d like to hear from our all too busy children from time to time. So if that’s a quick text, then so be it. The conversation still continues at least, even if in short snippets.

“A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference.” Winnie the Pooh

Peace – Xine S.

Every Morning Is Like Giving Birth All Over Again

Fewer things in life are more than difficult than giving birth.  Anyone who has done this at least once understands this.  However, the difficulties don’t stop there and they range in levels of degree.  Recently one of the more difficult moments have been in getting my 18 year old son up for work in the morning.  The process takes at least an hour beginning with me entering his room and announcing the time like a modern day version cuckoo clock with a Siri interface.  Silence usually follows my first announcement which now prompts me to start clapping my hands – again images of a cuckoo jutting out from the clock as an Austrian couple whirls around another part of the clock slamming cymbols together come to my head.  I am now being growled at “I’M UP!”  So I retreat back to my desk where I have been working already for about an hour or two.

10 Minutes later – I am forced to go back in as he has managed to hit the “snooze” on this modern day cuckoo.  This cycle repeats itself a few more times before Mother Nature forces him out of bed to take a morning leak.

Once up he continues to dawdle about either in the shower, more time in the bathroom, his room. I always attributed the fact that he was born in the midwest to his Kansas City Joe pace in doing things, since a New Yorker like me has by nature a much quicker pace.  When I went into labor with Nick it took two days for him to finally come out.  Initially my blood pressure had risen and the doctor was afraid of toxemia – thankfully I hadn’t yet seen the E.R. episode of the woman who was pre-eclampsic like I was, and who did do into toxemia. The doctor induced labor upon learning how high my blood pressure had soared and my body had swelled and threw me into the hospital immediately.

The first day was miserably long. I was on pitocin all day and had to get up every so often to walk the hallways as my labor slowly but surely progress.  I was taking forever to fully dilate.  The nurses kept remarking “this baby is done – just too comfortable to wake up and come outside!” Sounds familiar.  The second day, the doctor decided to break my water. I suppose it could be equated to ripping the sheets off the bed; I usually get some sort of response from that, as did the doctors that morning.  Once my water was broken it only took a few more hours of true active labor and a few pushes to get him out.  It’s similar to the last moments around the house before he is out the door. There is usually some commotion as he looks for his shoes, keys, wallet etc…panic sets in sometimes as he races around trying to locate whatever is missing this time.  Then the final push — out the door he goes slamming the door behind him — followed by a moment of silence. I remember waiting to hear that magical sound, the first time I heard him cry.

Now, after that moment of silence I wait to hear a different sound; the sound of his car engine pulling out of the driveway.

“A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference.” Winnie the Pooh

Peace – Xine S.

Our Garden

This spring I have done something I have wanted to do for a very long time – start my own vegetable garden. I have fond childhood memories of working with my mother in our garden in Sherman, Connecticut.  During my adult life, I have had my fair share of small container gardens for herbs primarily.  My boyfriend (a stupid term for the man who I live with but I am not married to) has always had a small garden as well where he would plant tomatoes, basil, peppers and corn.  
About a month ago, we started on building the form for the raised bed after we had scoped out the best and easiest place for the garden to go. We did our research on how to build the form and not to use chemically treated wood which could leach contaminants into your garden effecting your produce.
We made multiple trips to the town mulch pile to get what we needed. A mixture of that, cow manure and some top soil filled the bed.  I had tilled up three bucket fulls of rocks from the bed before laying the form and the mulch mixture since I planned on planting carrots I wanted to make sure that the pathway was clear of rocks. An impossible task in Connecticut which is why we opted for the raised bed method, plus we can control the soil mixture more that way.
April 17, 2012
April provided us with a few days of warm weather which had us planting a few starter plants but not everything.  There were a few days which frost warning had us putting plastic containers on top of the crops over night to protect them.  We escaped without any casualties.  We started off in the bed with about 8 corn plants, 3 tomato plants, 3 green bean plants, a couple of peppers. I was concerned right off the bat of one of the corn plants since I had been drinking a beer while planting and I spilled the beer on the soil right where one plant went in.  
Deer aren’t as much a problem for us with the four dogs around.  To keep the four dogs from trampling through the garden bed, we put posts in each corner and wrapped a plastic fencing around it.  We stapled the fencing into the posts leaving one side that we could open to get into the garden and use a bungee cord to secure it.
May 5, 2012
At the same time we also used our patio containers to plant cauliflower, red lettuce, Boston lettuce, iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce and spinach, broccoli and strawberries. Last week, we were able to pick off a leaf from every plant and used it for our Greek Steak Sandwich Wraps. It was delicious and so rewarding to walk in the backyard and get out lettuce from our very own garden!
After this weekend planting the raised bed is now full.
We have quite a bit of rain in the area and now are needing some sun. Over the weekend we added more tomato plants – a few heirloom, super 100s and Lemon Boys. I also planted some snow peas, and the carrots that I had started form seed a few weeks ago.  The “beer corn” plant looks to be doing well and has I think gotten over the drunken phase it may have been in.  Who knows maybe I stumbled upon something 🙂  The strawberry plants have buds and flowers and a real strawberry in progress. 
Strawberry plant May 7, 2012

I am excited about the prospects for the garden this summer. Sharing this experience with my family is a big part of starting this garden. I look forward to adding our crops to the dinner table as the months tick on.
“A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference.” Winnie the Pooh 
Peace – Xine S.

Closer to God

Some of the most beautiful places on earth are on the hills and mountains of the world. There is something about being in the mountains which is very special to me. Perhaps it’s their breathtaking views or the high altitude but I feel somehow closer to God there.

Years ago I was fortunate enough to spend a lot of time at Okemo. We used to joke on Sundays mornings as we skied that there was no better place to be then God’s outdoor chapel on the slopes.  The feeling of being on top of the mountain and on a clear day see for miles in every direction can be one of the most majestic views one can ever take in. Coupled with the rush I feel as I ski down the slopes it transcends the experience like no other sport I enjoy.

I’m not a religious person – I don’t subscribe to any formalized religion. For better or worse, I wasn’t brought up in a particularly religious home so I wasn’t given any particular direction to follow as far as that was concerned. I consider myself somewhat spiritual as I have my own idea of God and Gaia, Mother Earth. I choose to include her for being responsible for maintaining and cultivating what God initiated. When I stand in the mountains and look around at the amazing peaks reaching to the heavens I get the feeling that I’m standing in some of their best work.

Today was the first day of Spring. The earliest that the Vernal Equinox has occurred since 1896.  Today was also the last day of ski season for me.  It was the winter that wasn’t being that it is the 4th or 5th warmest and driest in a century. It was also my first ski season in over six years.  I had forgotten how much I truly enjoying being in the mountains. But my time this winter at Stratton has renewed my love for the mountains.

I have many conversations with God and Jesus Christ. As I child I always would simply just talk to God; however a few years ago I started to include JC as well.  I had started to think more about the holy trinity and figured that he should be included.  These silent conversations happen sporadically whether in the shower, on the chairlift or on the deck in the morning having my morning coffee. I can be alone or sitting amongst people.  At those moments I think to thank them for all the blessings they have bestowed upon me.

Although the winter season has finished, the conversations will always continue. The venues simply change to include places like the garden, the park and the ocean. Happy Spring!

Sweet Mutiny

Things are going to be a little less sweet in the mornings… The cries for better nutrition and less sugary breakfast cereals could possibly send Captain Crunch into retirement soon. The good ole’ sugary sweetness that has kick started so many kids, myself included, has fallen from no.1 to obscurity. Shamed for having being too sugary and therefore the cause of every obese kid or adult out there.  In the 12 gram of sugar category, you have in the line up famous tasty morning treats such as Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes and Froot Loops. General Mills is a little sweeter in this category with their menu of Trix, Cookie Crisps and Lucky Charms. Yeah, they’re magically delicious – 13grams of yummy sugar goodness.  One of my absolute favorite Kellogg’s Apple Jacks weighs in at 15g of sugar!  Explains why switching to Cheerios at 1g of sugar made them taste like cardboard circles at first. In the 15g group Apple Jacks sits next to Corn Pops and Smacks, all of which are Kellogg’s products. Smacks, btw, used to be called Sugar Smacks, but this obviously is no longer politically correct so they simply tossed the word sugar but didn’t bother to lower the sugar content.  Smacks sounds stupid to me. I’m sorry, I’m old school – give me my Sugar Smacks and Saturday Morning Cartoons!!

But if you take a very close look at the various ready-to-eat cereals, you’ll notice something very disturbing – many so called newer ‘healthy’ cereals out there and that is they have shit load of sugar in them!  Again, I’m not talking about the old school guys like Quaker Oats Cheerios (1g), Kellogg’s Corn Chex (3g), or General Mills’ Wheaties (4g). I’m referring to Muesli, dried fruit & nuts which has a whopping 26g of sugar! Wheaties Raisin Bran has 18g! Frosted Cheerios 13g – see it takes at least 12 grams of sugar to make those little round things taste good!