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Postcard from Vermont

21 Jul

Green Mountain Adventure Challenge #vermonttime

Can you uncover a hidden treasure in the woods of Vermont? The Boy and I thought we could, so a couple of weekends ago we hightailed it up to Dover to participate in the Green Mountain Adventure Challenge.

The challenge runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day and is meant to be something you and another person (or group of people) do in a weekend, but if you don’t get it done in the weekend, you can keep coming back until you finish (or just simply quit).

We got one of the challenge’s travel packages, which included a couple of nights at a local inn–we highly recommend the Cooper Hill Inn–lovely proprietors, comfortable rooms, stunning view, and we were off. Checked in on Friday afternoon and then started the hunt.

The challenge is tough–let’s just get that out there. It’s mentally challenging (I might still be working on it today if it wasn’t for the Boy, since my brain didn’t really think a certain way for the last part of the puzzle). It’s physically challenging.

But it’s worth it.

Friday was a scramble in trying to figure out what we were looking for. We figured out the clue that would set us on the right path, but then we were stumped. Wandered around a field and found nothing. Made a short hike much longer. Went back to the field and paired up with a group that helped us realize just what we were supposed to find, which meant we had to redo that short hike–and the sun was going down.

We drove like crazy and ran through the woods. The Boy lost his glasses at one point, and luckily I found them before it got any darker–or he stepped on them. Found our clue, hightailed out of there. Drove to another part of the area and found some more in-town clues until we realized we’d better stop for dinner before all the restaurants closed.

Saturday was hiking day–we knew we’d have at least one “moderate” hike. Hiking levels always make me laugh–this was hilly, so it wasn’t moderate to me. It was also rainy, so all of the roots and rocks covering the path were pretty slippery. Still, the walk was fun, and the view at the top was foggy, but beautiful of what we could see.

Coming down, we were walking through clouds, which was cool until they opened up, and it started pouring. Tree cover kept us from being completely soaked, but we were definitely pretty wet.

We got to dry off when the weather moved out and we discovered that we had to do another, much steeper hike to reach another clue. Tough, but rewarding, both in the view (this post’s cover photo) and in the physical accomplishment.

Still, by the end of Saturday, we didn’t really know where we stood on actually completing the challenge, and it felt like we weren’t going to finish before we had to leave. Then we saw this on the way to dinner:

Double Rainbow during #vermontime

And knew that we would.

It took a couple more hours on Sunday–and we ended up collaborating with others who were in our same boat–but we finished. We solved it!

I believe that means we get a share in the final jackpot, but honestly, getting through it was reward enough. Plus, we got the reward of a weekend in a beautiful part of the country.

You should try it.

 

 

What’s Your Four?

7 Jul

Summer Reading 2017 - Bring me all of the books!

Have you seen that LitHub story about the book hoarders that’s been floating around the web? Both the Boy and I read it, which got us wondering how many books we actually own. I mean, we have a lot of books, but we also live in a smallish apartment, so there’s not a ton of space to really, you know, have a library.

And then we did a little bit of counting and a lot of estimating….and figured that we have probably close to 1,000 books.

Wow.

Considering that we have a problem with tsundoku, I’m feeling compelled to make a dent in reading what’s on the shelves. Luckily, it’s summer reading time in this part of the world, and I thought that this year, I’d take part in a little summer reading effort Massachusetts is promoting called Read Four.

Read Four is really targeted toward children and teens to keep them reading during the summer so they don’t fall behind when school starts up again; however, I will take their proclamation, “The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners is challenging all [my emphasis] residents of Massachusetts to read four books this summer,” to heart, so I plan to read as much as I can this summer to stoke my creativity and feel less guilty whenever I look at the bookshelves in my home.

The stack above is what I’m hoping to finish in good time, and it includes the books I started reading at the beginning of summer. I’m actually on my fourth book now: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. I read a book by her sister Nicola earlier this year, but I picked up this book last Christmas during the annual family day-after-Christmas trip to Barnes & Noble. I’m hoping it’s equally as fun and escapist as my first three reads have been: the Sophie Kinsella, Rollergirl and Desperate in Dubai. All three have been breezy and entertaining–the last one particularly was fun for the cultural insight into Dubai, which made me want to go back even more (and also because I spent a fair amount of time looking up the Arabic phrases sprinkled throughout).

So those are my four–or nine, as the case might be. What are your four?

 

Postcard from Niagara Falls

12 May

If you find yourself traveling in the Buffalo area, you might think, Hey, maybe I should duck over and see Niagara Falls while they’re so close. And that’s a good thought to have — they’re pretty spectacular. But if you’re not from around the area and trying to find parking, you’ll probably end up in the official State Park parking lot, which costs $10.

Seems like a decent chunk of change to go glance at some water, right?

Not to worry! The State Park parking lot gives you 20 minutes of free parking, which is plenty of time to get a Niagara Falls experience.

Take a parking ticket, and park in a spot that gives you easy exit access. This is important because if you’re running short on time, the last thing you want to do is coast through the parking lot and get stopped by tons of cars pulling in and out of parking spaces.

Now, you book it.

The main access to the Falls is through the visitor’s center. Walk in and go down the stairs that are either on your right or left. Avoid the store at the bottom and walk to the back and out the door. Viola! The falls are right there!

Head over to the railing and look to the left. There’s the falls! Marvel at them, wonder what they look like from the Canadian side (sorry, but they’re better), take some pictures and selfies. Head back quickly–your 20 minutes are almost up and you want to be able to walk like you’re a normal person and not on some non-existent Amazing Race.

That’s it. Head back in, avoid the crowds, head back up the stairs and out of the visitor’s center. What? You wanted a souvenir? Pull four quarters and a penny out of your pocket and make yourself a pressed penny (I know, pressed penny aficionados. Four quarters). The machine is downstairs, next to the door that goes out to the falls. You’ll have time for that.

Once you’re out of the visitor’s center, start walking quickly back to your car. Check your parking ticket–are you still in your 20 minute window? Good! Don’t even bother trying to pay for parking. Even if you’re under 20 minutes, the machine will try to tell you that you owe money. Don’t let it confuse you.

Get back to your car–even if you have to run at this point–and hightail it to the gate. Stick your ticket in the card reader, and congratulations, you’ve just gotten a free quick side trip to Niagara Falls.

 

Postcard from Indianapolis

17 Feb

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We were in Trader Joe’s, picking out some wine for the weekend, when it hit me: Indiana has blue laws. We need to buy more!

Recently I was in Indiana for College Girls’ Weekend. It’s me, my college roommate, and our across-the-dorm-hall neighbor. One weekend in winter, rotating cities. We hole up in comfortable clothes with plenty of wine and snacks and spend a few days catching up–or just hanging out in silence. For those of you who have this type of weekend in your life, you know it’s pretty sacred.

This year we’re in Indianapolis, and as usual, we were adhering to one of the early weekend rituals: The-stock-up-so-you-don’t-really-have-to-leave-the-house ritual. We opted for Trader Joe’s, which in my house is called “the snack store,” and we were stocking up. Everyone was having a good time, until we turned the corner into the wine aisle.

A panic set in. “Oh my gosh, there are still blue laws here, right?” I asked. I couldn’t even enjoy the fact that I was in a Trader Joe’s where you could get some Five Buck Chuck–many of them around me aren’t allowed to sell alcohol–I freaked out about having one day a week where buying alcohol was completely verboten.

My friend looked at me like that was a problem.

“No!” I continued, my words getting faster. “Do we have enough? What will we do if we run out and can’t buy any booze on Sunday?” Never mind that we were getting a box of white, a bottle of red and two bottles of bubbly. That could surely hold three people over for three days.

“Tomorrow’s Saturday, Jill,” my friend reminded me. “We can always go out and get more if we need it.”

That was enough to assuage me, but by Saturday night, when we’d gone through most of the box and one bottle of bubbly, I was panicking again. “We didn’t get the vodka and amaretto for that one drink you wanted to make!”

“You know, Jill, tomorrow we can go to a bar and drink if we need to.”

Also true.

But yet, the panic persisted.

The sad thing is I know that if I didn’t drink on Sunday, I would be OK. There are many days where I don’t drink at all. But take away the possibility…and I freak out and want to stock up like blue laws are suddenly going to seep beyond Sunday, and prohibition will reign again.

Therein lies the problem with blue laws. Restrict something, and people just want it more. I never feel this panic in Massachusetts, even though stores can close up early on Sunday. I don’t notice because I don’t usually feel compelled to buy liquor on Sunday. But with blue laws firmly in place, taking away the option to buy liquor for home consumption on a Sunday, makes me want to buy way more liquor than I really need. It’s the opposite intent of the law, really, and ends up putting so much more focus on this “bad” thing that the restriction ends up causing more harm than good. I wish our society could change that–maybe someday they will.

For the record, we never touched the bottle of red.

 

 

 

Postcard from Boston

27 Jan

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When, during the week, the email updates said the numbers of registered marchers grew from 44,000 to more than 90,000, it didn’t sink in. When the commuter rail train only stopped to let people off and not let anyone on because the train was so full that they had to add another train to come and get us, it didn’t sink in. When we were finally on the train, looking at the sister protest marches in Europe, it didn’t sink in. When we walked into Boston Common and couldn’t get close enough to the dais to even hear anything, it didn’t sink in (I couldn’t even tell you where in the park the speakers were, to be honest).

But when we walked up the hill and out of the park to line up on Beacon Street to march and got a clearer view across the Common, that’s when I saw just how massive the Boston Women’s March for America was, and I’ve got to be honest, I was a little overwhelmed at the outpouring of voices who are tired of being marginalized–and not just women. We were all tired–tired of being told that we’re not good enough, that human rights were not fit for us–and we’re done being tired and are ready to speak out and make change.

The march itself was a long day–as we stood around waiting to march, we’d heard that the Chicago protest was so large that they couldn’t march anymore. Looking around, we wondered if that would happen to us too, but it did happen. Two hours after the speeches ended, we stepped off, and it took us an hour to get through the one-mile march. We weren’t even anywhere near the end of the masses either–it just kept going.

As we marched, people chanted all around us. A brave female Trump supporter stood on a stoop and waved to the crowd. People stood on balconies and rooftops, posted signs in windows. Busloads of people who came in for the event were stuck parked there–high schoolers hung out the window of one bus to lead us in chants. A busload of women in their 70s lined up next to their bus, watching us with tears and gratitude in their eyes.

The best moment, however, may have been walking by the Arlington Street Church. ASC has a set of hand-rung steeple bells, and people were up in the steeple ringing them. We first noticed when we heard “Happy Birthday” peal out across the street (no fooling–we had no idea why they’d play “Happy Birthday”), but then they launched into “The Star Spangled Banner.” Those of us walking by the church sang along, cheering as it ended and we rounded the corner to the home stretch.

Overall, it was a good day, a peaceful day. An estimated 175,000 people showed up and created millions of moments that we’ll all remember, but those millions of moments need to come together to continue this work and bring about more equality in our nation. I hope we’re all ready for an interesting ride through history.

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Two Women I Want to Be

11 Nov

On Election Day, I work the polls because I love being a part of the process, and I love watching people exercise their right to vote. [this year my polling place had a voter who came straight from his naturalization ceremony. Talk about a tearjerker!]

This year, I worked in Newton, MA, which is a pretty wealthy and liberal town and was a warden at a polling place in a community center. The warden is the manager in charge of the precinct, makes sure things go smoothly and takes care of all of the unusual situations, such as provisional and inactive voters.

An aside: Hey, guess what! If you don’t fill out your city census, the city doesn’t know that you still live there and will list you as an inactive voter, which means you’re flagged for being taken off of the rolls soon. Don’t complain about your lack of carelessness in forgetting to return the city census; don’t assume they’re going to take the time and taxpayer money to knock on your door and make sure you still live there; just fill out this little confusing form that makes you repeat your address and city a few times, and it’s gonna be all good!

Anyway, during the day, I got to interact with a couple of women who are the type of woman I want to be when I grow up: Ageless.

The first came in to vote, and she’s friends with the clerk (the #2 at the precinct). Dressed super-nattily*, glistening white hair. I look on as they chat:

Clerk: Are you going to aqua zumba?

Heroine #1: Not today. I’ve got cancer, so I’ve got to go to a treatment. [shrugs]

Shrugs!

They make a little more small talk, and after H1 leaves, the clerk turns to me and says, “Guess how old she is.”

“I don’t know…..70s?”

“She’s 90.”

Ninety. Looks in her 70s only because her hair is so white. Otherwise, I would’ve said 60s. Still driving, still doing her thing. Oh, and the cancer? Second time she’s had it, and her attitude is basically that you get the treatments, you get through it and move on.

But wait! There’s more!

One of the inspectors in my crew is a true gem. She’s been doing elections for decades (since the polling place was over at the Jewish school, but when they went kosher, they didn’t want the precinct to be there anymore because they didn’t want the food contamination–see, the history you learn, even if no one remembers when exactly that was), and was sometimes quick to remind me that she’s been doing this a long time.

Patriotic spirit? Whoa! Heroine #2 dresses for every election–this time it was navy pants, white blouse, navy sweater vest. Red necklace and earrings, American flag scarf, navy beret. Boy, I was envious of how she was able to pull off that beret!

Stamina? Most of the people I work with (old or young) start flagging at the end of the day. Not H2! She was still sharp and feisty at 9:00 — maybe a little crankier, but then so was I.

Age? Ninety-four. Also still drives. Sure, in the middle of the day, she put her cane–which she needs mostly for stairs–on the top of the car and drove off, losing it, but who hasn’t done something like that? I seriously think that if I went into this precinct in a decade, she’d still be sitting at the check-in table, checking people in with lightning speed.

These two ladies gave me some hope on Tuesday, and right now, that’s some hope in times where it seems that hopelessness might take over for a while.

*Note: Super-natty dressing might be a hard thing for someone who wears a lot of jeans and t-shirts, but I can learn. Thank goodness I started that subscription to Vogue.

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