Category Archives: Vermont Life

Surprised by Love

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The weekend getaway was a surprise Christmas present from my husband.

Throughout our 18-year relationship, my husband has excelled at surprises. While we were dating, he orchestrated a “traveling surprise birthday party” for me: As we walked through lower Manhattan, we kept “accidentally” bumping into friends who joined us for dinner, coffee, cake. It was only when everyone converged at a late-night bowling alley that I realized the staggering amount of coordination my husband-to-be had put into the evening, which was anything but accidental.

Our engagement was a similarly impressive covert operation. No picking out the wedding ring together for us: Instead, my husband (then boyfriend) capitalized on my cluelessness to lure me to a Connecticut jewelry store, where my ring finger was measured on behalf of his cousin in California, who apparently had to have a ring from this particular boutique. On the evening of our engagement, the friends with whom we were supposed to have dinner cancelled at the last minute due to “illness,” so we ended up having a romantic dinner alone before strolling around New York City to view the Christmas decorations. It was only when my husband dropped to one knee under the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree and held out a (perfectly sized) ring, that I had any idea of what was happening.

I like surprises, which has served me well in this relationship.

Click here to continue reading the Valentine’s Day edition of my “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent. 

The Cow on the Wall

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The cow was hanging on the wall, opposite the checkout counter at the Sweet Charity resale shop in Vergennes, and I fell in love with it immediately.

That I was in Sweet Charity, without children, on a Saturday afternoon, was due to a series of anomalous events. My husband was in Chicago for work, so a generous friend had taken pity on me and invited all four of my children over to her house to play for a couple of hours.

Faced with two precious hours of free time after two days of single parenting, I did what any woman would do: I went shopping for home furnishings with my mother, of course.

Click here to continue reading my latest “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent. 

Teaching Our Children About History

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One afternoon earlier this month, my daughters and I gathered around our kitchen island for a snack. I began asking my eldest daughter about a book she was reading. After a few one-syllable responses, she was tired of my questioning. Looking me right in the eyes, she said:

“’Every man his own priest,’ Mommy.”

She was quoting the followers of Martin Luther (“The original, not King, Jr.,” as my daughters are fond of saying.) During the Protestant Reformation in 16th century Europe, Martin Luther started a movement that changed many of the practices of the Catholic Church and put the Christian faith more firmly in the hands of the people. “Every man his own priest,” was the rallying cry of those who advocated translating the Bible and making copies more widely available, so that people could read and interpret it for themselves.

In other words, my daughter was using a cheeky historical reference to tell me: “If you’re so interested in what I’m reading, read it yourself!”

One year ago I started homeschooling my two oldest daughters, who are now in 2nd and 3rd grades. As much as I’ve taught them over this year, they’ve taught me more. One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is just how much children love history.

Click here to continue reading this week’s latest “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent.

The Stars At Night

by Campbell Gong

Drawing by Campbell Gong

The other night, I took the dog for a walk down our driveway.

The job of walking our dog after dinner usually falls to my husband; on these frigid winter nights, he dons hat and gloves, ski goggles and earmuffs, snow pants and winter parka, before disappearing into the snowy, blow-y dark. “Hope you make it to base camp!” I’ve been known to holler (unhelpfully) into the mudroom after him, while our daughters collapse in a pile of giggles.

Those daughters are the primary reason why my husband is the designated evening dog-walker: I’m usually occupied by dinner dishes, bedtime stories, and tuck-ins.

But on this particular night, a few days before Christmas, I needed the fresh air and the quiet. My vision was getting fuzzy from all the gift-wrapping, baking, and holiday logistics. Besides, I had a few last-minute Christmas cards to put in the mailbox.

So, after donning my warmest gear (minus the ski goggles and earmuffs), I set out down the driveway with Gracie, our clinically anxious labradoodle.

Let me set the scene, for those who have a more suburban vision of the word “driveway:” Our driveway is a ¼ mile-long, dirt-and-gravel road. We share its initial length with a neighboring house; about halfway down, the driveway branches in two, with one section leading left towards our neighbors’ house, and the other section winding to its conclusion at our front door. The driveway is unlit, as is the main road where it ends. At night, the only light comes from the single bulb outside our front door, and a handful of lights from neighboring houses – the neighbors with whom we share our driveway, the farm beyond the trees, and one or two homes across the main road.

All this to say: At night, the walk down our driveway is dark – very dark. The journey may take upwards of ten minutes round-trip, because ice and snow on the gravel drive make it necessary to step carefully. Ten minutes in single-digit temperatures can feel like a long time.

The night I walked our dog was cold and dark. It was also a clear night, so when I looked up about halfway through my walk, I gasped aloud.

We don’t see the stars much these days, do we?

Click here to continue reading this week’s “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent. 

A Thank-You to Snow (with correct link!)

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Sorry — this post went out to many of you prematurely yesterday, without an active link. Here it is, with a link to the full article. 

For the past several months, I’ve sensed a heaviness in my writing, an unbroken seriousness that leaves me with the uncomfortable feeling that it’s time to crack a joke.

My recent columns have reflected what I believe to be the prevailing mood of late. The news, both national and international, has been mostly bad – at least for those who did not vote for Donald Trump at home, or who are distressed by humanitarian disasters abroad. Closer to home, family members have been ill, friends have lost parents, appliances have needed repair, and the pace of life has afforded little time for rest or reflection.

The time will come when this column will again regale you with lighthearted stories about how our daughter introduced herself to a stranger by saying “Prepare to meet your doom!” (“I said it in a welcoming way!” she protested later.) Or about how our dog escaped and ran over to the neighbors’ Christmas tree farm to harass their horses – at the exact moment a charter bus full of camera-toting tourists pulled into their driveway. Or about how the very loud smoke detectors that my super-safe husband placed all over our house, keep malfunctioning at late hours.

But this will not be that column; today I’m going to write about snow.

Click here to continue reading this week’s “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent.

Let’s Act Like the Kids Are Watching

On the morning after the 2016 Presidential election, I took my daughter to preschool. This preschool – a magical place that looks and feels like a throwback to 1970s Vermont – has a daily morning “circle time,” during which parents and children sit around the carpet to hear a story, sing songs, and greet each other. As I looked around the circle that morning, the contrast between parents and children was dramatic. The adults were haggard; nearly everyone appeared exhausted from staying up late watching the election returns. And although I can’t pretend to know how everyone had voted the day before, most of the adult faces around that circle bore glazed looks of shock.

Then there were the children: These three-, four-, and five-year-olds did not look exhausted, shocked, or anything other than excited and ready to begin the morning’s activities. If their world had changed overnight, they seemed unconcerned. They were busy just being kids.

So, in a performance that felt slightly unreal, we adults put on the show of a normal morning for our children. We helped stash lunch sacks and choose daily chores, we listened to a story, we discussed the day’s craft. We kissed our children goodbye and told them to have great days. We saved urgent, whispered conversations for the parking lot.

It felt like the best thing I could have done that morning. Even when the world does change overnight, what can we do but continue to breathe in and out, to put one foot in front of the other, to take our children to school?

Click here to continue reading my latest “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent.

Insects We Have Loved…and Lost

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Our new wood stove arrives today, not a minute too soon. We no longer open our windows at night; instead, we’re sleeping in socks and pulling up the comforter. The mornings are dark and cold. The world is turning gold as every day more leaves decide to shed their chlorophyll and show their true colors. ”I think you girls are keeping us in business!” Mary at Happy Valley Orchard exclaimed when we showed up for the second day in a row, after two of my daughters put away seven apples between snack and lunch. This weekend there was a Canada Geese superhighway crisscrossing the airspace over our house.

Fall is well and truly here in Vermont.

Our family is outside more than ever, clinging to these beautiful days before freezing temperatures drive us inside. I’m putting old garden beds to sleep, and preparing new garden beds for spring. My husband is playing with his new weed whacker and brush-cutting attachment. And my daughters are just playing.

Last week, somebody asked me if we’d put up a playground in the yard of the house we’ve occupied for two months. I’m afraid I stared at him more incredulously than his question warranted before answering, “No, that’s not in the plans.” We have no need for a playground. Our daughters are in talks with their grandfather about building a tree house together, which would be great, but for the time being they have 12 acres to call their own. They dig holes and make mud bricks. They climb trees. They swing in the hammock. They roast marshmallows in the fire pit. They ride their dirt bikes up and down the back hay field, the topographic features of which they’ve named in honor of various Star Wars characters. And they catch critters.

Click here to continue reading about why my daughters have terrible taste in bugs, in this week’s “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent.