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Showing posts from 2007

Airport musings~

Sitting in Houston's Airport-- Bush Intercontinental-- I face a sun setting over the fin of a grounded Continental jet. There's a football game on TV and Bruce has moved closer for a better view.

I'd rather watch people. An odd lot us humans, but interesting, and nice-- for the most part-- all with a tale, each the lead actor in a drama written only for him-- or so he thinks.

Nobody here looks ominous in anyway. All the random "beepers" were pulled aside and screened further. All water bottles have been confiscated from those who didn't know water was a liquid.

We're safe, those of us waiting for flight 686. It's the weather that may pull a cruel twist with the storm that is due to arrive in Boston while we're only half way there. Or an invisible virus someone harbors.

A mother-of-three adjusts her load. She's determined to stuff a pacifier in the baby hanging in a sack from her front. Her toddler tells her his tummy feels better now and the…

San Antonio and Boston~

I'm in Austin. Two days after Christmas we flew to Texas for another of Worcester State's basketball tournaments. Bruce's motto is, "I didn't miss any of David's games in high school-- and he played three sports-- why start now?"

My motto is, "I didn't make all of his games in high school-- nor did I try. The least I can do is go to the ones that require traveling to a place I've never been."

David spends his days with the team. When they are not playing or practicing, the coaches take the kids out to see the sights.

We have plenty of free time to see the sights and to relax, which is what I'm after, basketball aside. Today we headed 80 miles south to San Antonio and sauntered along the River Walk-- the much corralled and exploited, but nicely so, San Antonio River-- in sun and sixty plus temps. We visited the Alamo, and absorbed a bit of Texas's interesting history and culture.

Beautiful! Eye candy! Never ashamed to lug a camera an…

I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day~

These words written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow during the Civil War still resonate today . . . unfortunately. But where there is love there is the hope of peace. Let it begin. Merry Christmas!

I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day
I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And mild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
“The best Christmas of all is the presence of a happy family all wrapped up with one another.” ~Unknown

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Till ringing, singing o…

'Tis the season~

I'm never all that jolly at Christmas time. It's too commercial, too demanding. I hate demands. I hate to follow the sheep through the stores-- not that people mean to be sheep, but 'tis the season-- spending money I shouldn't, spending time wrapping gifts when I am tired, gifts that will only be ripped open, expensive paper burned in the woodstove or cluttering a landfill.

I don't know how to return Christmas to what I think it should be: peace and love. All is calm, all is bright.

It's hard to back up.

I don't like all the hype. But somewhere along the line, early on when my three kids were little, I succumbed and set a precedent that I want to end, but how?

Here's what I'd say to new parents:

Don't start off your Christmases by piling presents high under the tree. It's easy to do when a lot of little toys, relatively inexpensive, make a big pile to the eye-popping delight of the little ones. Their excitement makes it worth repeating next yea…

I.C.E Interrogation~

Buffalo in the winter turned out to be not so bad at all. We spent the time between breakfast and David's game at Niagara Falls.

We wandered the American side of the river, me towing the camera and snapping way too many pictures, even though I know from experience that no photo ever does justice to the falls.

Crossing into Canada required no more than showing a driver's license and answering questions: where were from, where we were born, where were going, and why? No birth certificate required, and no physical check of the car.

The woman agent who quizzed us at Canada's crossing appeared to have a bit of the Niagara River flowing through her veins--no smile, no "Welcome to Canada, enjoy your visit"-- glaring suspiciously as she leaned slightly to look past my husband at me in the passenger's seat of the car.

"And where was she born?" she asked my husband, keeping her eyes locked on mine. Conscious of my tendency to make wisecracks at inopportune moment…

Shuffle off to Buffalo~

It's 7:11 p.m. and I'm on the bed leaning against three puffy pillows. The laptop rests across my thighs. My husband is on the other bed with the newspaper. The TV is on: Law and Order. He's watching; I'm not.

"You should get away, just the two of you," my friend tells me-- often. "It will revive your relationship."

We are in Buffalo, New York, after an eight hour ride that took ten today because of the snowstorm that swept into the northeast and dumped a quick six inches. Who goes to Buffalo in the winter? The city, home to Niagara Falls, is notorious for its snowfall.

Our mission was not planned as a relationship revival. We came to watch David's college basketball team--the Worcester State Lancers-- play a winter tournament. Bruce attended every one of David's high school games: football, basketball and baseball, and will go to the college games too. I went to the high school home games, most of the time. I think.

One other Boston area team…

One winter morning~

I woke early this morning, way too early for Saturday, the day I plan to catch up on my weekly sleep deficit.

Monday through Friday I get up at 5:45. This time of year, the sun -- if it appears that day-- barely makes it to 20 degrees above the horizon by the time I get to work.

The early winter sky is always beautiful, my small consolation prize for being conscious--barely-- before my biorhythms want me to be.

But today, I figured I'd roll out after nine, at least, if I was lucky. I wasn't, as far as my sleep plans went.

I'd gone to the bathroom, and plopped back into bed. But the view I'd seen out the window nagged: perfect light, snow still on the branches, grasses bowed and beautiful under crystal blankets.

Go to sleep. It's only snow, I told myself.

But it's beautiful, and you can take a nap later. Get up! That was me, too.

When I argue with myself, I listen to the emotional side, not the logical. So I got up, grabbed the camera, and slipped out into the frosty b…

But, merry Christmas~

I have a friend, Ross, who lives across the Atlantic in West Amble, a Dickensian sounding village in windswept Northern England.

To read his emails one would think it's always raining or blowing up a gale from the sea, or at this time of the year, sleeting. Maybe it is. Ross says, the past summer "lasted two days, and it was only warm enough for shorts one of those."

He's a truly funny man and I look forward to his common sense comments couched in humor. Make that humour.

In his latest missive he says, " Your last year teaching ... you'll be counting it in months by January, if not already ...

Actually, on the first day of school in September I started putting the "days left" count on my calendar. One hundred-twenty-something left! That's not saying I don't still enjoy the business of teaching a room full of ten and eleven year olds. I do. But I can look forward to the end at the same time, and I am.

He says, "I wonder if, in years past, yo…

Caffeine and a smile~

A couple of months ago I chose to stop writing for my town paper, feeling that something was going to snap-- maybe me-- if I didn't cut down on some of the things I was doing.

I was behind on my invoices, three months worth of stories had never been submitted for payment, so I sat down yesterday, finally, to make out an invoice. I'd kept records of my stories, but I decided to double-check my accuracy by looking at the online archive of the paper's online.

A bold headline caught my eye. I did a double-take, the way I'd react if I saw my boss in an unexpected place like a liquor store or church. My own name stood out in bold.

The story was a press release for the latest Chicken Soup For the Soul book in which I have a story. The CS people must have sent a press release; I vaguely remember signing an online form that gave them permission. It's part of their marketing plan.

I laughed when I read the summary the CS team wrote. It starts: "Douillette is late for w…

Battle scars~

The phone rang last night, a call for my husband, who wasn't home.

The caller, Al, said he'd been in Officer's Candidate School in Quantico, Virginia with Bruce in 1967, then Basic -- five months of training after OCS. They never saw each other again; these were Vietnam War years.

Al had been looking up former platoon members to notify them of an upcoming reunion at Quantico in May. I gave Al our address, and Bruce's email address.

Then, never being one to miss an opportunity to chat, I floated a thread. He grabbed it and we were off, two of the most unlikely people to be speaking so intimately: a Nam vet and the wife of a Nam vet.

The wives talk, we are desperate to talk-- we have battle scars of a different sort-- but the vets are closed like clams. But Al was not, anymore.

I said, "Actually I didn't know Bruce during those years. I'm his second wife. I know very little about that time. He doesn't talk much about it."

"I understand that. I…

Giving thanks for *you*~

Thanksgiving Day, USA, is over. Remains of the feast crowd the refrigerator and . . . my tummy. It is a much-loved holiday for many reasons, and all it requires is that I take a moment to count my blessings.

Around Thanksgiving, teachers often ask younger students to make a "thankful list." As a new teacher I remember feeling disappointed by their answers.

"I'm thankful for my family, my house, my pet, my friends." And here their lists stopped. All identical. All common things that everyone was thankful for.

I tried to elicit more, something different, something broader, more expansive. But they couldn't add more. Their world was what they could see from their front porches, and that's what they were thankful for.

The view from my front porch extends farther-- it's global-- and I have a long list of things to be thankful for, things I could never have imagined when I was young.

But when all is said and done, it is my family and friends I remain most th…

Sleep stats~

When you are deprived of it, sleep takes on monumental proportions. It becomes a goal, measured down to the minute, protected by earplugs and rules that warn friends and family not to call until ten on weekends.

Ten? Ha! I wish. But I hold to that rule just in case, because you never know: one morning I might wake, and instead of seeing the sun's horizontal rays creeping across the frosty grass, I'll see a golden noontime glow.

Time Magazine's November 26 issue has a section called: "One Day In America." It's devoted to the average American, who of course is a mirage. Still the article is interesting.

I'm above average in some ways. I have four tenths more of a child that the average family, and I'm 20 plus years above the average age.

I'm below average in the exercising department due to the over achievers who exercise for more than an hour every day and make my exercise stats look sick . . . maybe because they're nonexistent.

When it comes to sle…

"Internet Review of Books" invites you . . .

Oh what a far-reaching web we weave when first we . . . join an Internet group.

When I realized that I was getting to the age when I needed to stop saying, "Someday I'm going to write" and actually put fingers to keyboard, I looked for an online writing community.

My usual good luck led me to the Internet Writing Workshop. With encouragement and help from this warm community of writers, I began getting my essays published.


But even nicer-- the frosting on the cake-- were the friendships that developed. If you'd told me three years ago that I'd talk daily with people from all over the United States and Canada, not to mention, England, Australia, India, and Costa Rica . . . I'd never have thought it possible.

There's more.

Carter, a friend I share administrative duties with on the IWW, noticed a trend-- book review space in newspapers was being cut back. He figured he could pick up the slack, and he invited Bob, Gary and me to join him in a new p…

One Veteran's story~

My husband was twenty-four in the spring of 1967 when the Army drafted him during the Vietnam years.

Finished with grad school, he was teaching in Connecticut, and had plans to marry in three months. Not to me; I was a sophomore in high school then.

Deciding that he'd rather be the one giving the orders than taking them, he enlisted in the Marines and made plans to go to Officer Candidate School.

He told his fiancée what he'd done, and gave her the option of postponing the wedding, knowing he could be killed or maimed. They married as planned. Their son was born at Camp Le Jeune when his tour in Nam was complete.

The thirteen months he spent in the jungles are not something he's said much about. I've seen his medals. I've seen a Vietnam flag he pulled from somewhere. I've read letters from superiors praising the job he did.

But I know little. It was hot. He made sure his men were taken care of. He made decisions for the greater good. He gave orders that impa…

What me worry?

What me worry?

Maybe I should, especially after the scare I had when I found a LUMP in my right breast years ago, big enough to detect while innocently soaping up in the shower. The speed with which the doctor moved to do a biopsy was fear inducing in itself.

It proved benign, but I had to get frequent mammograms at first until I was cleared for the standard once-a-year protocol. I was faithful for a while, but after my physical this spring I ignored the doctor's instructions to schedule a mammogram along with my first ever bone density test. I guess I've reached the age, or is it the stage, where osteoporosis is a concern.

I remember thinking I'd never again let so much time go by that something could grow undetected inside my body until it could be too late. Still, I never do breast self-exams, even though my doctor patiently instructs me "how to" every year. I let her tell me again, and again. She must suspect.

But here I am, six months overdue for a mammogram, m…


I had a dream. Very weird.

I was wandering in a field when I realized that birds, small ones, were somehow snapping off the flower heads of Queen Ann's Lace and flying off with them. It took great effort to lift off with the flowers in their beaks. The higher they flew, the bigger the flowers became, dwarfing the birds that struggled on against the laws of aerodynamics. There was something eerie about this, and I knew it needed to be recorded, captured for others to see.

I didn't have my camera. And I was trying to decide if I had time to get it before the birds were gone. But in the optimistic way of dreams, I realized that I did have my old Sony point and shoot in my truck.

By the time I pulled the camera out of its case and turned it on, there were only two birds in sight, very high and rapidly growing too far to see. The flowers they had in their beaks had grown to the size of Frisbees.

I could hear the birds gasping, a chirping moan, and I knew they were struggling but dete…

Me and my laptop~

I was reading Mridu Khullar's blog
yesterday when I saw that I'd been tagged. That means I have to write a meme (which I assume is pronounced mee mee) about my strengths as a writer.

I will do it, but my natural tendency is to chronicle my weaknesses. I am built that way, very hard on myself.

I stay out of the spotlight; if it finds me, I smile and bow, squinting into the glare, and shrug with that palms up gesture. Nice, thank you, but I really don't belong here.

So to document my strengths-- as I see them-- makes me uncomfortable. But I will do it, and I will not add any disclaimers, another of my tendencies.

I write from the heart. My essays, I've been told, resonate with readers who identify with the experience I've put on the page. My daughter tells me I have "no filter," meaning I share too much. I am comfortable sharing a fair amount, but what I don't share would make for some damn good reading-- a "steamah," as we say in Boston.

I have l…

Welcome to my world~

My alarm went off at 5:45 a.m. and I pulled my black pants from the dryer. They looked weird, crumply and misshapen. The lining was hanging below the cuff. A peek at the tag-- "dry clean only." Oh, well. A little creative ironing and they were wearable thank goodness, because they were necessary for my Secret Service look.

Today was "Harvest Fest" at Hanover Middle School, an annual event that goes back probably as long as my career. It combines a Halloween theme with special activities for the kids to choose from. Each activity, be it face painting, shooting hockey puck at a goal, or throwing darts at pictures of teachers has a small fee. The proceeds go to the Visiting Nurse.

Students wear costumes, and so do teachers. This year the fifth grade teachers had a Secret Service theme. Miss McKenna was the first woman President. Of course all the kids thought her First Man was president; he didn't go out of his way to dispel the mistake.

It's not easy to…

Tug of war~

Right now I'm living with one foot in the working world and one foot in retirement, caught in a tug of war. I'm the rope of course, feeling pretty stretched.

To use another metaphor, I feel like a butterfly that's nearly grown, but still compressed in its chrysalis-- cramped and squeezed. I want to fly, but it's not quite time.

I love my class the way a mother loves the baby she knows will be her last. This school year is one to cherish. And I'm not missing a beat when it comes to teaching-- powers and exponents right now.

But I also love writing, and photography and the other little irons I have in the fire, and I have several. (See below)

Doing what I must, and doing what I want make a hearty meal on my plate. It gives me heartburn, but I want to have my cake and eat it too.

I began writing for a local paper more than a year ago. Right now, I'm listening to the Town Fathers talk about Town Meeting warrant articles: zoning bylaws, 40-B housing requirements, busin…

Just a spot~

Yesterday was an A+ glowing autumn day. Instead of crashing on the couch after school, I decided to take my camera for a walk. But I wanted someplace different, so I hopped in the truck and headed for the nature trails at the college. Instead I followed the sunlight, and drove from one photo-op to another.

A sign caught my eye--Stiles and Hart Brick Company-- and I did one of those break-slamming, squealing, last minute right turns.

In the early 1900's, Stiles and Hart mined clay and produced bricks. Brick production stopped in 1938 when a hurricane damaged the buildings, but clay was mined until after WWII. That site is now a park. This sign led me to the new location of the business.

The building was in beautiful spot on the Taunton River, perfect for picture taking, but it had signs: No trespassing. Stop at this point.

I entered the office, camera hanging from my shoulder, and asked a man behind a desk if he'd allow me to take pictures on the property.

"For who?" h…

Fall frenzy~

When the people in the car next to me at the gas station asked me if I knew how to get to Smith Farm I said, "Yes. You go out the driveway and turn . . .," I pause and tap my right thigh, " . . . right."

I squint my eyes as I try to think beyond the right turn out of the gas station.

I stare at them blankly. They look expectant. "You know what? Follow me," I say. "I can get you there, but I can't explain how." The woman in the back seat nods understandingly.

I had my camera and was planning to take some fall photos. Smith Farm would be perfect.

Once there, I found myself in a throng of parents and grandparents lugging pumpkins and toddlers.

Unencumbered, I'm alone in the crowd, not part of the fall frenzy. I wander, mostly unobserved, like the hen that's scratching amidst the fading perennials for sale.

I used to bring my kids here. We'd spend an afternoon picking out perfect pumpkins to take home and carve. Things look different n…

Today is my someday~

Some days I get tired of myself, my thoughts. I just want to turn them off and drift in an empty headed haze, lie down with a book and get lost in someone else's thoughts for a change. Lately between writing and taking pictures, I've been living too closely to my own thoughts, too intensely involved.

I take a walk, and I see pictures everywhere-- in a wide-open scene of trees and sky, or a small spot of sunlit color in a hidden berries. I stop and snap and move on always seeing more, more, more.

I used to walk with no other purpose than to exercise-- fast-paced, sweaty and cathartic-- but I can't do that anymore for some reason. There is beauty everywhere. I want to capture it. Need to.

I used to go to bed with a book. I wandered in another world until I fell asleep, and the book slipped aside. Now I stay up later than I should, focused on my own inner world, writing down my thoughts and observations. For some reason, I need to do this, and I want to, but I miss the time awa…

Monarch magic~

If it weren't for the unseasonable warmth, I wouldn't have eaten my lunch on the patio. I wouldn't have spotted a monarch at the marigolds. I wouldn't have put down my sandwich and gone for my camera.

The monarch flew, but as I sat again, I saw that there were several fluttering around the yard: one at the butterfly bush, one on the nasturtiums, and others fluttering with no special destination that I could tell-- just following the whim of the wind.

Toward evening I walked on the college campus, camera in tow, waiting for the sun to point out pictures for me.

I don't ever remember ever seeing monarchs in October, but they were everywhere. They crossed my path, zigzagged high, fluttered low. They were harder to photograph than falling leaves. They flew high beside two swallows and a dragonfly. I didn't have the patience to sit and try for a shot so I walked on just happy to have seen them.

I rounded a corner and stopped short. There were monarchs at a nectar bar-…

More questions than answers~

What sets teaching apart from most jobs, besides motherhood, is the amount of questions teachers get asked during the day. I can think of few jobs designed to be so question oriented. Kids are supposed to ask questions. Teachers encourage this.

"Are there any questions?" we prompt.

We tell students that there is no such thing as a stupid question.

"How are you going to learn if you don't ask?" we say.

And I love questions--both asking and answering them.

I encourage my students to be curious. "I hope you always have more questions, than answers," I say. "Being inquisitive is what leads to new discoveries."

Today after reading about natural resources, we discussed wind power. One boy asked about the turbines. How heavy were they? Did they have to be light so the wind would turn them?

This brought on a discussion of aerodynamics and force and airborne things. I ended up demonstrating Bernoulli's principle. Later the boy who posed the questi…

Alone in a crowd~

Today while Bruce is busy, I take my camera and drive to Blue Hills Reservation. Twenty minutes away, this reserve with miles of hiking trails makes a nice Saturday afternoon jaunt.

The beautiful weather drew crowds-- families, couples holding hands, friends, and the occasional loner like myself. I don't mind being alone. I thrive on it.

I watch people, I listen, I speculate, sometimes correctly, and sometimes not. Sometimes I start up a conversation.

I decide to climb Great Blue, a hill not much more than 600 feet, but high enough to have a weather observatory on its summit, and offer a panoramic view of the Boston skykline. I choose the red trail, rockier, steeper and more of a challenge than the green dots. I weave through the hikers and move ahead at my own pace. I'm not a meanderer.

Around a curve is a woman taking pictures of three boys. She's patient as she gets them to look at the camera. I wonder where her husband is, and think he may be just ahead. Often the men …

Betwixt and between~

I got some good news a couple of days ago. The Chicken Soup series is going to include an essay I wrote in their "Chicken Soup For the Empty Nester."

They asked for a brief bio-- no more than fifty words. Me in a nutshell-- the traditional paragraph written in third person where I tell about myself as if I weren't me.

Actually, I have five versions of me in my "brief bio" folder, because some publications allow more words, and each publication warrants a different style.

None of my bios would do, though. They all began: Ruth is a teacher, or, Ruth has been teaching for more than . . .

The book will be published in June 2008. I will be retired then. I need a new bio for the future. In the publishing world the future is always ahead of reality. The future is now.

I revised my bio to say: Ruth is a retired teacher . . .

No big deal. I liked the sound of it, but my subconscious had something to reveal.
I dreamt I had given birth to a baby girl. I was thrilled, …

Sick day~

Sick day~

I'm home from school today-- sick. I stayed home yesterday too.

I'm never sick. Hardly ever, anyway. I say that confidently, without knocking on wood. Years of teaching have given me a cast iron immune system.

While others manifest full-blown symptoms of the germ of the month, I get-- at most-- a day of feeling sluggish. I figure that's from my antibodies fighting, and winning. But barely a week into the school year, I've been hit by the prevailing virus.

Taking a sick day doesn't come easily to most teachers. For one thing, it's far more work preparing for a substitute than it is just to go in feeling lousy.

Plans and schedule need to be spelled out in detail. Extra work must be planned because kids tend to whip through their assignments under a sub's less demanding eye. There are loose ends to pick up when you return: work to correct, lessons to reteach because the kids say, "the sub didn't explain things good enough."

Teachers by nat…

Thanks to him~

Welcome my son as my guest blogger. He wrote this for his freshman comp class recently. (He hates the picture.)
Thanks to Him
by David Douillette

Who does this guy think he is? I was six years old and my mom was taking me to my weekly soccer game one fall Saturday afternoon.I didn’t know anybody who lived on this side of Bridgewater, so when the man got out of the red Porsche parked on the side of the lot and started walking toward us, I had no idea who he was. Apparently my mom had told this man I had a game today and to stop by if he wanted to.

I came to see a lot of this guy I would eventually call Bruce over the next couple of weeks. I found out that my mother and he had met at the fitness center in Bridgewater and as you can probably guess, had become fond of one another. He started coming over every so often and my mother, sister, and I went over to his apartment sometimes too.

It was extremely hard on me every time I saw him and my mother do anything remotely affectionate tow…