Paddling, paddling, and more paddling...

I have been working at the tolls A LOT.. mostly because the weather her was so hot and humid that the 'regulars' did not want to be stuck in a toll booth atop hot pavement accompanied by heavy exhaust fumes... I can't say that it was easy to work on those days, especially on the days where I worked at a booth where I am the only person there, so there was not an opportunity for any breaks to cool down... but I am happy to have had the chance to work. Even with the extra shifts, I have been able to make time for fun....which, for me, has meant being in my kayak! This is a picture of the side of my kayak.. it says Old Town, which is the brand of kayak I own... Old Town Canoe and Kayak is a company here in Maine, and makes great products! Anyway, enough of being a commercial...

One of my missions this summer is to explore bodies of water that I have never been on. So far, this summer, I have done four new places... in addition to some of my favorite spots. I want to do more new places. It's kind of cool for me to be able to kayak on new places... for so long I associated kayaking with the river up north, where Mom and I would paddle for hours... and while that is still my favorite place to kayak, I am finding many other little places I enjoy. I need to update my Maine map... I write down places where I have kayaked and describe how to get there so I can return there easily. I am sharing a lot of pictures here and for some reason lately when I post pictures it takes a long time to coordinate the pictures with text, the formatting is off. It does not end up looking like I think it will... so I am going to try to describe a few pictures of the same area...

This first group of pictures were taken on Monday. I was able to meet up with my friend Kris, one of my friends from college. She and her daughter met up with me at a pond which ended up being close to their house for a few hours of paddling. It was a fun day. Fun to get time with Kris and her daughter, fun to see nature, as always, and fun to see Kris's daughter try her hand at paddling. She did pretty well too, maybe a future kayaker! This pond is one I have been to twice before. It is a cool place.. makes me think of what it would be like to kayak in Florida or Louisiana. It is fairly narrow and winds back and forth. The water is filled with lily pads and other plant life, so thick at times it is hard to paddle.

These pictures were taken on a river trip on Thursday. I had been looking at my map and wanted to do a river, thinking that a river may be more similar to places I have been up north. The place where I put in was a good launch site. The water there was very cloudy... I hope it is so cloudy because the land there has a lot of silt/sand and clay not because the river is unhealthy. There were a good number of turtles sunning themselves on logs, none of which allowed themselves to be caught by me for a close up encounter with a human.. which was disappointing to me. I went on this excursion with another friend of mine. Someone who I have known for a while. It was good to get to spend some time with him. We paddled lazily up the river, which had little to no current for a couple of hours, stopping along the way to photograph turtles, try to catch turtles, and so watch a blue heron. I was very excited to see the heron because I had not seen one yet this year. This river was very cool because it twits and turns a lot and just keeps going. Along the way we encountered a couple kayaking who asked if they were heading up or down stream, wanting to head towards the ocean. (The river has a few damns, below which is the ocean.) They had been paddling for 2.5 hours and were getting tired. Someone had dropped them off and was going to pick them up at one of the damns, but the person left before telling them which way to paddle, left or right... so they were worried they were going in the wrong direction. I do not understand that... who does something like that, kayaking on a river, without having researched it a little bit. I had read things online about this river and knew that the current was slow/non existent. I knew that I needed to go left to go upstream... This couple could have been in a dangerous situation. What if that river had whitewater? (Which it does below the dams.) I like trying new places, but I think it is smart to have some knowledge about it first. I will definitely return to this spot.

One day this week, Wednesday, I did two kayak trips. In the morning, I met up with two of my favorite co-workers, Deb and Judy, to do a little pond. As it worked out this pond is said to be the cleanest pond in the state, with the best water quality. I can see why... there is a very small access point from which people can launch their watercraft. Larger boats are not allowed. The people who have camps along the pond's edge have mostly canoes and kayaks. It was beautiful. The water was so clear. The wind came up a bit while we were paddling, but because the pond is so small, it didn't create large waves. We paddled and talked, talked and paddled... and it was great. We saw a family of loons, with only one baby. The baby, which I would assume would be about the same size as the ones I saw earlier this season, was getting pretty big. It was still fluffy, but did dive under the water for a while. We spotted the baby first without parents nearby, but as we got closer to the baby, the parents came swimming up quite quickly and were making sounds, lecturing, the baby, we assumed about getting to far away from its parents....rebellious teenagers! We saw the family again later and I was able to get close as one of the adults gave itself a bath, preening itself, it was cool to watch. After it finished it spread its wings and I was able to get a good shot! What a great morning!

That afternoon another friend wanted to get together, wanted to do something outside, so I offered to take her kayaking. She was excited to go as she had not been since we had gone together last summer. We went to a little stream close to her house, the place where I had seen a loon on its nest earlier this spring. I was very sad to go by the nest and see that there was an unhatched egg there. There was no sign of a loon... so I was pretty sure the nest had been abandoned. The rest of the paddle was nice. As we returned to tha launch site, we passed the loon's nest again, still no sign of an adult. I knew that by now, eggs should have hatched... but that night I emailed the Maine Audubon Society asking if it was possible that this was a second nesting or if the egg had been abandoned. I had read online that in Canada there are organizations that collect unhatched/abandoned eggs to try to determine why the eggs did not hatch. (Environmental reasons) I wanted to know if such practices were done in Maine. I was happy to hear back from the Audubon Society and was told that most likely it was an unhatched egg. I was asked to go back to the spot to see if there was an adult around, apparently if the first nesting does not result in at least one healthy chick, loons will lay another round of eggs... and if I was sure it was abandoned, I was asked to collect the egg. Maine does have research organizations to see why eggs do not hatch, but I was told that unfortunately there are many eggs in freezers because money is not there to do the research... I did not like the idea of this egg sitting in the freezer, so was happy to learn there would be another option for the egg, should it still be there and still abandoned... The Audubon Society is in the process of making "loon Kits' to be used to educate Maine kids about loons and how to preserve their nesting sites and lakes and rivers on which loons live. So I returned to the nest site on Friday afternoon after working the tolls... and was hoping to see an adult loon on the nest or to see signs that the egg had ben hatched...but it was still there, alone... I got close to the nest and there were not feathers, no signs of recent company... and I was convinced that seeing the nest a third time with no adult loon, meant that the nest had been abandoned and that this egg, for whatever reason, did not hatch... so I collected the egg... which was much bigger than I thought it would be. it is a good three and a half to four inches long and has some weight to it. While it is cool to hold an unhatched loon egg... I mean how many people get that opportunity? It was sad too... Loons are amazing birds, have been around for years, surviving longer than many species...

There are a lot of other things still going on in my life... things about which I am very stressed... but I am happy to find time to do something I love so much. I feel very lucky to live in the state of Maine. (Remind me of this in February when I am complaining about the snow!)


A gift...Hermit Crabs, A lighthouse... oh yeah and JILL!

Jill's here, Jill's here, Jill's here, Jill's here, Jill's here, Jill's heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere! Jill, from California, made it back to Maine today! She and her family are in Maine for a couple of weeks, and I am thrilled that I got to spend the day with them today. Jill and I grew up in neighboring towns and attended the same schools. We were friendly throughout school, but I would say really became friends when we were seniors. I am thankful that I did not graduate not knowing her, not being able to call her my friend. She is one of very few people from high school with whom I remain in contact.

This is a picture of the gift Jill got for me for my graduation. It is a set of four notecards that she put into a frame for me. This gift is amazing for many reasons... and touches me very deeply.

She gave it to me tonight, after we had spent the day together. She gave me a card first, inside of which was a smaller notecard along with a business card... the notecard had pictures of a small boy making paintings and below the pictures was a bit of information. The boy in the pictures is three years old and has been diagnosed with autism. In order to pay for some of his services, his mother has gotten very creative. She takes elements of her son's paintings and incorporates them into her own drawing/art. She makes them into notecards and is selling them... Before even seeing the artwork, I was in awe. A woman, a mother, who has been given the challenge/blessing of a child with autism has found ways to use something he uses as an outlet as a way to help him get the help he needs. BEAUTIFUL. Then she gave me the frame with the pictures inside.. and I immediately poured over the watercolors behind the details of the drawings, wanting to see the work from this child... then I realixed that these four images were not just four random pictures... each of them has meaning to me... upper left, daisies.. my mother's favorite flower... upper right... a turtle... I love turtles, take pictures of turtles whenever I can and try to catch them...and have a whole philosophy/analogy about turtles (specifically sea turtles) and my students... lower left.. ferns... as many people know I love ferns, the color, the texture,how they start out as curls that stretch themselves straight as summer progresses...and my mom loved ferns, loved seeing the different colors of them... and the lower right... a tulip... my favorite flower... There is so much of what I love in this ... Jill had something created (the woman personalized the prints based on Jill's ideas) that is me ... parts of me at least... parts that I cherish... including its inception and creation... LOVE it! I will post more information about this mother and son duo soon... I want to get permission from the mom before I post their website information... I will try to get a better picture of them, this picture does not capture them well... tomorrow, during the day, I will take a better one.

The visit... I met Jill and her family off an exit off I 95. One of Brian's former co-workers also met us there and together we headed to the ocean. We went to a place where we found many hermit crabs! I think we ended up with around 15 or so... I had picked up some small aquarium nets to take to the beach, thinking that the kids could try to catch small fish, instead they ended up being the transport method for the hermit crabs... after catching them, Jill's son, wanted to put them into a bucket with the other ones we had caught... and he was more comfortable using the net than his hand. To catch them, I used my hands, except for a couple that were pretty big. It was a lot of fun. From there, we headed to Maine's iconic lighthouse, Portland Headlight... I think I have heard or read that it is one of the most, if not the most, photographed lighthouse in the world. (But that could be a totally incorrect fact!) It is a nice place to visit... I used to go there, spend a day sitting on a picnic table overlooking the lighthouse, reading a book and contemplating... haven't done that in a while... maybe soon... This is Jill and her hubby... Jill would not pose nicely for a photo, so she will have to deal with this one! They are working on moving back here.. and I cannot wait!

We walked around a little and saw some people doing some paintings... this was one of the people... and I was impressed with what he was doing... The last photo is of his pallet... just me taking artsy photos, as Jill would say!

After the visit to the lighthouse Jill and her family went to check into their hotel and I came home to take a shower and relax for a bit before taking Jill to dinner. We ended up out for a few hours, chatting... about so many things... Love love love her! Thanks for spending the day here so we could get some time together!


Sleepless in Maine...and the sound of a trumpet.

My mind does not listen to itself very well... last night my mind was racing, not unlike other nights, and I tried to tell it to calm down, to relax, so that I could sleep... but my soothing self talk did not work! I tossed and turned... each time I woke up I had several things on my mind...

At the top of that list was my friend who is battling tumors... she meets with an oncologist today, for the results of her biopsy... while they have already pretty much told her that it is breast cancer, I am sure hearing those words, definitively, would be one of those moments where the world stops, other sounds in the room fade, and those words seem impossible... like they are being said about someone else...and where anything said after that would not even be processed... I get sick to my stomach, thinking about it... I thought of her a lot last night... seeing her face, her beautiful blue eyes filled with tears... and wish I could do something to take it all away from her... This morning, when I first checked my email, I learned that one of my uncles who has battled cancer for years, remains in remission. I am thankful for that news... thankful that he and our family can breathe a sigh of relief.... and it offered me some hope today, for my friend... if I was one of those people who believed in signs... I may have thought it was one...

Next on my list was my grandmother... She is 93 years old... and is AMAZING. She really is... I know many people say that about their grandmothers, but mine really is... She and my grandfather were married for more than 60 years before Grampie died twelve years ago. They had such a cute relationship, were one of those couples who you saw and they made you smile and hoped that you would one day have that bond with someone... When Grampie died... I fully expected Grammie to die too... At the visiting hours before his funeral, we thought we were losing her. She collapsed... but she survived... and has lived by herself since... with the exception of weathering some winter storms with one of my aunts.

This is a picture of her with one of my cousins who recently had a baby. Grammie is known in our family as the quilter. She makes beautiful quilts... I have kept all of the quilts she has made for me over the years... they are very tattered and worn, which she would be happy about, knowing they were well used over the years... and in the last few years her arthritis has prevented her from quilting... but when she heard that she was about to have a great great grandchild, she made another quilt. That is not the only reason she is amazing... but... it adds to her many endearing qualities.

Gramie loves her family. She has always been the caretaker... I believe since she was a child. She was one of five siblings, and as the oldest, took care of her younger brother and sisters... Still, at 93, she tries to look out for her two sisters... 93 is a long time to live...even when we are told people are living longer... I love that she is still very mentally sharp... she can still tell stories about things and rattle off the names of all 7 grandkids, 10 great grandkids, and one great great grandson... I think that's right anyway... she would correct me if I got it wrong... of course I had to use my fingers to count everyone, she would probably just know!

This is a picture of her at our most recent Thanksgiving. I probably posted it back in November, but feeling like I want to share it again. I love this picture. She was looking at photos in a wedding album of one of my cousins. Gramie is so proud of her family, always has been. She has always told us all how proud she is and how much she loves us. She is the matriarch of our family.

She is on my mind today because she is in the hospital... this is her second visit in about as many weeks. Her last visit was called a 'heart episode'... which she has had a few of over the years... this visit has not been given a specific reason... they are doing tests, nothing invasive, thankfully... and have found a few things... not atypical for someone of her age. My dad and his siblings are of course, nervous about her going back home... knowing that she is an independent person. I remember as kids we used to say that our stubbornness... which I prefer to call determination, for the record, was something we got from my grandfather's side... she made it clear that her side of the family probably passed along some of those traits as well!

I was pleasantly surprised that my aunt told me that Grammie has said that upon release from the hospital she thinks it best to go into a rehab facility, for a while... this was something my dad and his siblings had discussed at the hospital, worrying that Grammie would want to go home, not to rehab, not to my aunt's house.. and they had thought about requiring her to have nurses come into her home a couple of times a day if she was to return to her house... even though I think they would all prefer a rehab facility for her, for now.

When I read that she had made the decision to go to a rehab facility I was pleasantly surprised... knowing of her... let's say...determination... But then I got thinking... and wonder if she made that decision to make it easier on her kids... which would not surprise me. She is not a person who likes to burden people... Last time I visited with her, on the 4th of July, she had asked me about my feelings and my sister's feelings about my father having another woman in his life. I assured her that we were both happy for Dad and she was glad to hear that. She then got a little emotional, although she may deny that, and told me that life was too long to live lonely... that she misses Grampie every day. Of course she does.

I am worried, of course, that she is dying... and realistically we know that at 93, she could pass at any time... but I also know that she has lived a very full, long life. I think that she has been able to see the amazing legacy that she and Grampie created... She has seen much in her life... when people say that they think of inventions, technology , significant historical events... when I think of what she has seen in her life... I think of her family... how she has seen it grow, how she watched her own children grow up, watched them have families...she has seen a lot of joy... and of course she has also had much sadness... in 93 years one loses many people, significant people... besides her parents, two of her siblings, her husband, and her daughter in law... she has lost friends...

I am so glad I got to see her recently. She has such a hard time hearing people, so I am not sure if she heard everything I said. She loves to know what we are up to, so after visiting with her I printed out many of the pictures I had taken and sent them to her with a letter, describing each of the pictures. She should have gotten it yesterday or today... I hope that brings a smile to her face! It will be hard to lose her.. and while I struggle with having faith in the way that some people have it... I do believe that Grampie is by her side... and that comforts me.

Dad is anxious... naturally...and I know that whenever this loss was to come, it would be hard on him... but I think that since Mom's death, his emotions, mine too, are intensified... and harder to manage... I have always been an emotional person, as I think is also true for my dad. I have worn my emotions more on my sleeve than Dad has... but I think we both had an ability to keep our emotions in check in front of other people and reserved the rawness of those emotions for time alone... since Mom's death... I think it has been harder to contain our emotions... well... I think we went through a phase of numbness... but think that things that hit us hard... are harder to hide.. not that we try to hide it... but I think we all, naturally try to hold ourselves together in tough times... I have been grateful that Dad has Betty in his life...she has said some very kind things to me, about Dad and my relationship with him... and as he goes through this process, with Gramie being in the hospital, I am glad she is by his side.

The other things that kept me awake last night included an upcoming visit from Jill and her family. (She has blackmailed me.. if I do not mention her name in at least three blogs this week... bad things will happen... According to my calculations, this, Jill, makes two... oh wait.. that was three! Two name drops today and one yesterday!) Then there is a job prospect! I sent in an application yesterday for a job that I would love... I think... an assistant principal position at a middle school. I have not put out many applications because there have not been many positions posted that I would truly want... but I would want this one!

Socks? Why socks? Well... Since I am looking for some good luck, for my friend, for my grandmother, and for a possible new job... I needed something for a good luck charm... Wigwam socks... Why? Well... Back in my basketball days... I wore wigwam socks at every game... and back then, that little red triangle symbol was only on one of the socks in the pair... and I would always make sure that it went on my left foot... always...

And then there was the national anthem...
While the anthem was played at the start of each game. I ALWAYS looked at the same star... the first star in the second row, furthest to the left... looked at it throughout the entire song... and at the end.. there is that part where there is a REALLY high note... I listened closely, at home games, for one of my bandmates, Jason L., to hit that note on his trumpet... if he hit it hard and strong, I KNEW, just knew I would have a great game... and I did... but if he was off... well... it was anyone's game! So... I am sharing my crazy superstitions with you.. in hopes that they will offer me some luck once again... fingers crossed! (one more bit of superstition couldn't hurt!)


I was asked to post this...

Looking forward to seeing JILL this week!


Oops... Forgot to mention that yesterday was the 4th anniversary of my knee surgery! Thank you to my superhero, my doctor in Boston... and to ALL of my friends who have supported me along the way!

Today I was supposed to spend time with my friend... but she texted saying she wanted some time for herself... I get that... but wish I could be there...


Some updates...

I feel like I have been wicked busy lately.. but the truth is I haven't been... I have been busy yes... between kayaking, working the tolls, and dentist appointments I have been running around a lot, but not enough that would cause me to feel tired from running around... maybe it's because of my timing... I am quite tired... and am not sure that my arms will be able to bend tomorrow, so better type tonight. I worked the tolls today, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., then met up with a friend of mine to go kayaking. We were on the water by 3 p.m. and off the water by 7 p.m. So I am feeling a bit weary.

My friend... most likely has breast cancer... I am terrified for her... and for me... It's hard for me to write about it here... because I feel like it is her battle, her illness... and is not my place to process it... I want to respect her privacy... I will be there for her in any way that I can... although that too, terrifies me.... She has gone through a lot already... and I know it is only the beginning...

So... changing the subject...

Here are some pictures from today's paddling excursion! (Which is why my arms are TIRED already... tomorrow should be interesting!) One of my friends came with me. I was very excited because I had not seen her in AGES... so it was nice to get caught up while we paddled. This was the first time I have paddled in salt water. We paddled in a marsh and we had to be mindful of the tide, which made the current. We decided to first head upstream, against the current (at least at this time of day!), and paddled for a while... the current wasn't too bad in most places, but there were a few times I had to work hard to not let it push me aside. After a while we decided to let the current push us back towards where we had put the kayaks in the water... and then let it push us beyond the launch site... and to be honest, did not realize just how far we had gone... how far away from our launch site. The current, along with great conversation and sightseeing made the trip go by fast. We ended up down to the point where the marsh empties into the ocean... and the water was moving pretty fast. I did not want to go out into the ocean so we decided to turn back... that was a smart decision. After turning around, the current was tough... one of the strongest currents in which I have paddled. But we had no choice... although we thought about parking the kayaks at the boat landing and having one of us walk along the road to get my truck... but we were committed to the paddling! My arms got tired... I am not gonna lie... but we had to go back. By the way.. the Strong Current sign pictured below... was only posted on ONE side of the bridge... would have been helpful to have it on both... do they think it is only stronger on one side? I enjoyed the paddle, but not sure it is one of my favorite kayaking spots... But, as always, I was relaxed and stress free!

Here are some pics taken during a ... "professional retreat!" Some of my favorite coworkers decided to have a summer camp out for the folks in the spec. ed dept. from our school. It was a BLAST! We swam, we drank, we kayaked, we laughed... not necessarily in that order. I am including some pictures here of me... which I rarely do... I much prefer to be behind the camera, but... figured I would share some of my adventures. The first pic is a few of us in the water, swimming... taken by our hostess from the deck of her camp. I am not sure exactly how my feet ended up under the arms of one of my friends, but..Oh well! The first picture of me...a self portrait, was taken while we were out on the boat enjoying the sunset. I am sporting one of my headbands.. which I have taken to wearing when I just don't give a ... It keeps the little wispy hairs away from my face and I like that. The next picture is another self portrait... of me and our hostess... she is such a sweetheart! I am very lucky to have her not only as a coworker, but as a friend. Okay.. The night picture of me takes some explaining... first of all, when we were on the boat, for the sunset viewing part of the evening I spilled my drink as I lifted my camera (apparently thinking I needed two hands to do that!) to take pictures and my full cup leaked... okay it didn't leak, I stupidly spilled it! Oh well... secondly, along the shore of the camp was this huge stump on which I suggested we each do our best impression of the crane move from the karate kid... but by the time it got to me, it had evolved into striking a pose... and lastly... remember my fear of moths? Well... THIS is my moth racket! Ready for attack! That is my warrior pose! I had to include a pic of our fire.... So nice to sit around the campfire! The picture taken through a window screen is of two of my favorite people... they were in the kitchen making pancakes and I was coming in to help... I think...

Now... here are some nature pics I took that same trip... The moon was really pretty. I was lucky to get some decent pictures of it. The evening of the sleepover and the morning after I got the chance to see something I have never seen... BABY LOONS! I cannot tell you how excited I was to see them. Loons are a very cool bird. I am amazed at how sleek the parents are, they do not even look like they have feathers, they look like they are wearing a scuba diving suit... but the babies... are soooo fluffy... I got to get up close and personal with the family and got to see the parents feeding the babies. It was AMAZING!

This week I attended a very sad event... one of my coworkers lost her daughter... who was close to my age. Her daughter was serving in the military overseas and on a day off her children had gotten caught in a rip tide and she saved them, but she wasn't so lucky. She got caught in the tide and drowned... so sad... So a few coworkers and I had gone to the visiting hours at the funeral home... on my way home I spotted the beautiful full moon... and decided to go home, grab my camera (need to remember to put it back in the truck after downloading pictures!,) and decided to chase the moon to see if I could get some good pics of it. It was a fun adventure!

After chasing the moon that night, I decided to go to the ocean to see if I could see the moonrise the next day. These are taken from that beach area. I had gone to the beach early to scope out a potential place to put in my kayaks to go for the marsh adventure described above. It was a beautiful moonrise, it was so big and pink! Also, I had a lot of fun playing with the hermit crabs at the kayak launch site (not the beach, but a place closeby!)

So this is my summer... so far... lots of fun adventures... some concern for a beloved friend... I am sure there are more adventures to be had!

My Favorite Place

My Favorite Place