Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Most New England Thanksgiving

We spent the weekend as if we were on a mission to fulfill every cliche of a New England Thanksgiving. We began at Jaimee's dad and step-mom's house on Thursday where we helped prepare a traditional turkey dinner while watching the New England Patriots beat the Detroit Lions 45-25. Then we welcomed a houseful of guests, a mixture of both friends and family, including five visiting Australians. There was a little pressure presenting a "typical" American Thanksgiving for the visitors, but as usual, Jaimee's dad and step-mom were wonderful hosts and could definitely qualify as model hospitable Americans. The Leroux house was like a revolving door all afternoon and evening as people came and went. There were probably a total of about 40 people that stopped by at one point or another.

Jaimee and I headed back to Boston on Friday where we met up with a couple of her friends from Cape Cod. We toured them around Roslindale and drank hot chocolate in our little apartment. Then on Saturday, we drove to Plymouth to meet some friends of Jaimee's from Chicago who were in the area visiting family. We met up for breakfast at a cafe right next to Plymouth Rock! How could we not snap a couple of photos next to the iconic 1620 rock?
After a brief pop-in at Jaimee's Aunt and Uncle's house in Plymouth following breakfast, we went back to Boston for a late lunch of turkey dinner leftovers with my sister and her wife's family. Isn't Thanksgiving about going from one meal to the next, all the while visiting family? After the brief lunch we came back to Roslindale and wandered into the village for the Christmas Tree lighting. We even got to see Santa Claus arrive on a fire truck! We didn't stay long but we appreciated living in such a cute neighborhood with lots of families and fun activities for them.

We then went home and waited for our couchsurfing guests to arrive. Those who'd been following our travels know that we used couchsurfing quite a bit during our travels. We begun using the website back when we lived in Seattle and hosted several people before we left. We then "surfed" many times while traveling and we vowed that when we settled down again we'd return to being hosts. Well, Dominic and Audrey from Saguenay, Quebec became our first guests in Boston. Saguenay is way up in Quebec; it took them almost 10 hours to drive to our house! They are incredibly nice. As is typical when couchsurfers meet, we enjoyed talking about our travels. We also helped them plan their time in Boston.

They were kind enough to bring us a little house-warming gift of a bottle of Sortilege: Canadian Whisky mixed with maple syrup! We cracked it open and shared some on a little ice. It was so delicious! The gift reminded us of when we hosted other Canadians last year in Seattle. Canadians are always so nice!

Today, while Dominic and Audrey went off to explore Boston, Jaimee and I met my cousin Bevan up in New Hampshire for a hike up Mt. Monadnoc. It was a typical New England winter day with crisp cold air and cloudless blue skies. We took the supposedly less-traveled Dublin Trail up the mountain, although there were quite a few people out climbing today. The trail was somewhat treacherous, especially at the top where there was lots of ice; Jaimee even got to use her Yaktrax to keep her from falling on the ice. It was a beautiful but cold at the top.
The hike was a wonderful finish to a wonderful weekend. What a great Thanksgiving, and as we mentioned briefly on Thursday we really do have lots to be thankful for. It might not seem like it with all our running around this weekend, but we did reflect on how lucky we are to have so many loving friends and family.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

A brief post today wishing everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving. Today we are spending the day at Jaimee's dad's house where we're busy preparing for a houseful of about 20 friends and family who will all be arriving shortly. Meanwhile, the Patriots and Lions are playing football, so it's shaping up to be a very New England Thanksgiving.

This is the fifth Thanksgiving Jaimee and I have spent together, but it's only the second one we've spent with family. We spent Thanksgiving of 2006 together in Portland, Oregon, 2007 in Idaho with Jaimee's Aunt and Uncle, 2008 in Whistler, British Columbia and last year we were in New Zealand with our first WWOOFing hosts, Jeanette and Doug. I think on actual Thanksgiving day last year we had home-made chili after a day of working on their farm.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, which is sort of ironic, considering I didn't celebrate Thanksgiving growing up and then I was vegan for several years while in Seattle and I spent Thanksgivings with my vegan friends, consuming more Tofurkys than I care to remember. So in some sense, this might actually be my first traditional Thanksgiving.

We have many. many things to be thankful for this year, including our loving families. On Saturday we'll be in Boston, spending part of they day with my sister and her wife's family, then on Saturday night we host our first couchsurfers in Boston. We recently reactivated our profile on and we're scheduled to host a couple from Montreal as our first guests since our return from our world-trip. Look for an update later!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

20 years ago...

On November 16, 1990 my father, Ludlow Fox Martin died after a short bout with cancer. It was two days before his 45th birthday. I've been thinking a lot about him this past week, especially in light of the fact that, as my Aunt Lisa (my dad's sister) pointed out to me via e-mail recently, in two days he would have been 65.

The year 1990 was not a pleasant time for me and my family. My grandmother (on my mom's side), with whom we lived, died in April of 1990, then in June my dad was diagnosed with sinus cancer. He went to the doctor complaining of sinus pressure and after a couple of exams and biopsies we found out he had cancer. After trying surgery and radiation, he tried alternative forms of treatment, including a special clinic in Mexico and a place in Wisconsin that specialized in ozone treatments to attack fast-growing cancer like his. Ultimately, however, he succumbed to the disease, dying at home (in the same house where he was married to my mom) on November 16.

It's amazing that it's now 20 years later. I think about my dad often and have many good memories: watching football on Sunday afternoons (including hot pastrami sandwiches), playing tennis, his love of games, including chess, checkers and backgammon, and his great sense of humor. We spent a lot of time laughing as a family, a tradition that I carry on to this day. I also remember numerous family vacations, including trips all around New England and Northeast Canada, as well as at least one trip to Florida where I got to ride "Space Mountain" at Disney World with him. I believe my younger sister was too short to ride it and my older sister had a broken leg and was in a wheel chair (a fact she doesn't let me forget to this day!), so it was just me and my dad for the mostly pitch-black ride. 

Part of what is strange about talking about someone who died in 1990 is that there are very few pictures of him. Now a days, everyone has pictures of themselves readily available. I haven't taken the time to scan in any of the few print photos I have. There are a few framed ones in our apartment, but sadly nothing to post for the blog. Also, many of my current friends never met my dad, and many might not even be aware that he died (it doesn't always come up right away). 

And since ostensibly this is a travel blog (although I acknowledge it's morphing into something slightly different since we've gotten back from our trip), I'll also mention that in late November of 1990 after we'd finished the funeral and burial, my sisters, mom and I took a short "vacation" to the Bahamas. We went to Harbor Island, a small secluded island recommended by one of our travel agent friends (remember travel agents?) We stayed at a resort that came with golf carts to travel around in, and my 13-year-old sister loved driving us all around. And I loved playing backgammon with the bartender while sipping my daiquiris and other yummy rum drinks (we joked that the drinking age was based on height; if you were tall enough to stand at the bar, they'd serve you a drink.) It was also during that trip that I read The Catcher in the Rye. Given my circumstances I could definitely relate to the protagonist Holden Caulfield, and I've often thought about re-reading it to see if my impressions would change. On the other hand, sometimes I feel like the memory of that trip is just perfect (given the circumstances) so I'm not sure if I want altered memories of it.

As readers of this blog know, visiting Vietnam was very special for me, because when my dad served in Vietnam he was exposed to Agent Orange, which more than likely contributed to his developing sinus cancer all those years later. It was closure on some level for me to visit the places he stayed while in Vietnam. Again, I wonder how different my life would be if he'd never served in Vietnam (or if he'd received a state-side assignment instead). Also, I mentioned my grandmother at the top of the post, and I explicitly remember being in Invercargill with our lovely WWOOFing hosts Colin and Ellen on January 17, on the day when my grandmother would have turned 100. I will never forget either my dad or my grandmother.

[Update: I received a correction from my mom that apparently my dad started having sinus issues in the Fall of 1989 and knew by early 1990 that he had cancer. In June he had his final surgery and learned the news that they weren't able to remove it all. Because of the form of cancer (schwanomma) he would have needed a craniotomy, which although the doctors were prepared to do they didn't follow through on for various reasons, partly because the tumors were too big and too close to his eye. I do remember discussions of whether they should remove one of his eyes in another surgery or if he should explore other options. Can you imagine facing this choice? Ultimately he looked at other treatments. My mom also reminded me of the generosity and kindness that many people showed us during that time. My mom, who has a memory even better than mine, knew exactly who did what when during that time. The list of people is too long to list here, but I thank everyone who helped our family during that difficult time. That immense outpouring of kindness will not be forgotten either.]

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Nannyhood in the Neighborhood

I've been working as a nanny for about a month now for Asa's nephew Jonah and another little girl, Grace. The kids are now five and six months old respectively, so you can imagine how hectic the days can be.

This job has been working out quite well for me for a variety of reasons. It's a great deal different from my last job as an intensive special needs teacher in a public middle school. I don't attend staff meetings that don't apply to my students anymore (always a huge waste of my time). I don't have to work with assistants who aren't very cooperative. I don't have mountains of paperwork or deadlines (except for feedings). And now we can go on walks throughout the day, including walks to the neighborhood shops, banks, and libraries, making it fairly easy for me to keep up with errands and chores. This includes my eight minute walk to work. It's so nice to be a walking commuter! And let's not forget that I only work four days per week (10.5 hours/day). I love my Fridays off!

There are some similarities, however. I still change diapers though its much different when the diaper isn't worn by a 14-year old. I still structure my day ahead of time, to allow for walks outside and certain amounts of playtime between naps. I still have a super rushed meal time, though now it's me chowing down while the kids are napping (you never know how long you'll have), instead of racing through my lunch after my long walk to the staff room and then my wait at the microwave for the other 10 teachers, and then a sprint to the bathroom, all in the 30 minutes allowed by the bells.

The job is very fun for me, and I hope also for the babies. We've gone to the park a couple of times now, though Jonah has been asleep both times by the time we roll up in the double stroller. We get to walk the dog, Story at the Arboretum. We spend time outside visiting with the very friendly neighbors at Grace's house. And we sing and play throughout the day. All of our time walking around in the stroller has helped me learn our neighborhood and West Roxbury too. We can go to the grocery, the libraries in both villages, parks, and coffee shops and restaurants. And, look at these babies, they are a hit everywhere we walk! People are always asking after them and wondering if they are twins.

Being a nanny is not without its challenges, though. Grace has been going through what her parents call a sleep strike, not wanting to sleep in her crib. She will sleep in the carrier or in my arms, but this will not be a long term solution (I hope). When one baby is hungry, both are starving once the bottle comes into view. This makes for some intense seconds until I get everyone positioned for a group feeding. And when one baby is tired, that doesn't mean both are. But crying and clinginess are contagious, so if one is tired and clingy, I've usually got both kiddos attached to me. Sometimes its a bit wild, like while I'm wearing a sleeping Grace in the carrier and trying to get Jonah off to sleep, by bouncing him in my arms. Luckily they both tend to nod off in the stroller; if only we could walk for two hours at a time twice a day, everyday!

Because the babies are so young, they are changing a lot all of the time. I've noticed big differences in Jonah and Grace in the four weeks since I've started watching them full time. I'm very excited to keep watching them grow, develop, and learn in the months ahead.

In other neighborhood news, Asa and I had the opportunity to walk to the polls last week for election day. We hadn't been able to do that in a few years, as Seattle moved to all-mail-in ballots. Our polling place was the local church in our village, three blocks from our apartment. We were impressed with how organized they were and how quickly our line was processed. It was a pretty low tech situation, with small counters and felt tip pens to fill out our paper ballots, but the turn out was impressive and it seemed like voting was a family affair for many of our neighbors. Here's a photo taken outside our polling place, the Greek Church.

Fifteen years ago...

November 7th, 1995 I visited Seattle for the first time. I arrived in a 1988 Subaru Justy with my good friend Brian from New Hampshire after a 10-day road trip across the country (we took the "Northern route" through New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, etc.). I didn't intend to move to Seattle, but stay I did, and the rest, as they say, "is history."

Now Seattle seems really far away as we're settling into a new routine in the Boston area (maybe we've already mentioned this?). Last weekend, we went to Vermont for a couple days and had a wonderful time doing "Vermonty" things, like a trip to the farmer's market, walks in the woods, and leisurely breakfasts. (Not to imply that Vermonters live the life of leisure; only visitors to Vermont live this leisurely life. Living in Vermont involves many chores, which luckily we were able to avoid this time.)

We stayed at a converted "Bed & Breakfast" that used to be a two-room school house. The owners rent it out per night and stock the refrigerator with breakfast foods that you cook up yourself. The adorable little house reminded us a bit of our apartment as it had lots of windows and skylights. Notice the tall windows that are original from the school house days; if you sit down inside you can't look out the windows, which I guess is the point if you're trying to keep the attention of school children:

We visited the Brattleboro Farmer's Market on the last Saturday of the year before it moves indoors for the winter. I was surprised  by the number of prepared food vendors at the farmer's market, including exotic food, like this Malian food vendor (there also were two Thai places and a Vietnamese vendor):

But mostly, as we keep mentioning, we're living a pretty relaxed life in Boston, enjoying semi-city-life in Roslindale. I say semi-city because although Roslindale is technically part of Boston, it feels more like its own small town than the city of Boston, actually a lot like our old Seattle neighborhood of Ballard. The Fall weather has been very nice, it's definitely getting colder, but it's been dry for the most part, which is a welcome difference from autumn in Seattle. The November I arrived in Seattle, it literally rained every single day for my first month; I suppose that indicates I was destined to stay there. If I could tolerate a solid month of rain, the weather wasn't really going to bother me that much. On the other hand, the following summer it was sunny for, again literally, every day in July, August and September (with no humidity!) which became the cycle of living in Seattle - recharge during the sunny summer for the gray, rainy winter. In any event, we've already had a bit of frost in Boston, which I noticed the other day on my bike commute to work (it might be faint, but it was definitely there):

Again, pretty cool that this is right in Boston (and that it's part of my daily commute). I feel lucky to live in such a nice place.
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