People of the Small Point


NarragansettRI.gov

NarragansettRI.gov

Native American names abound throughout the United States, especially here in tiny Rhode Island. A small town whose population nearly doubles during the summer, the name ‘Narragansett‘ is actually an English corruption of the Algonquin tribal name Nanhigganeuck, which means ‘people of the small point.’

East Matunuck photo by M. Reynolds

East Matunuck
photo by M. Reynolds

Matunuck (‘Mah-TOO-nick’) is a village set between Narragansett and Charlestown, whose name means ‘lookout.’ The Narragansett tribe used Matunuck as a summer encampment. The beaches at Matunuck and East Matunuck are both great, with direct exposure to the Atlantic Ocean.

charlestownri.org

charlestownri.org

Quonochontaug (go ahead, try it – okay, it’s ‘QUON-ah-kah-tawg’) might be hard to pronounce, but according to the American Indian Place Names page, Quonochontaug means ‘extended deserted place/two long ponds in succession.’ The photo above shows the breachway, which provides access to both Quonochontaug Pond and Block Island Sound. The pond is a large salt pond with many coves and channels to explore in a kayak or other small boat.

Misquamicut via commons.wikimedia.org

Misquamicut via commons.wikimedia.org

Almost in Connecticut, Misquamicut extends from Weekapaug to Watch Hill (all part of the town of Westerly). The area once known as ‘Pleasant View’ changed its name in 1928 to Misquamicut, an Indian name that means ‘red fish,’ a reference to the Atlantic salmon common to the Pawcatuck River. 

And if you didn’t know before reading this, now you know why Rhode Island is The Ocean State!

When Despair Wins


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When I was in my late teens, a girl I’d known in high school committed suicide. We weren’t close, but it shook me. From what I understood later on, she was distraught over a failed love affair. I think my dad took it harder, especially as the father of three girls (and me in the middle always going through some sort of crisis). She saw no other way, and had no hope that tomorrow could be better.

In college, my best friend learned of a relative’s suicide via telephone. We were on our way to a friend’s house for a weekend of fun with others. I told him I’d stay back with him if he felt it too difficult to attend the party, but we went. When I look at photographs from that weekend, I see a forced smile, eyes full of pain and sadness.

And yesterday I learned of another young person who took his life. I didn’t know him, but I do know one of the people affected by the tragedy of despair. She is left reeling and broken.

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I used to consider suicide a hostile act. I don’t anymore. My heart hurts for the person so consumed and overwhelmed by despair that there’s no room left for hope. The permanent solution to a temporary problem.

An Ell, a Vee, and Three Eyes


I looked at my hands recently and drew back in horror – ack! These are my mother’s hands! Old hands. Veiny. Couple of dark spots. 

My eight-year-old hands learned scales and arpeggios from Mrs. Vivian Fanning of Belfield Drive in Johnston, Rhode Island. Thirty minutes each day at our Janssen console piano. When we moved, my lessons continued with Mrs. Hattie Bowser of East Greenwich, who allowed me to learn pop songs from sheet music (although she nixed ‘Peaceful, Easy Feeling’ after reading the lyric ‘I want to sleep with you in the desert tonight.’). Well, I was only 13. Back to Mozart.


These hands now play a different keyboard. Fingers tap on keys. Letters create words. Words are strung together into sentences and phrases. Phrases become stories, and are turned into books.

My 58-year-old hands will continue to tap out stories as long as they can. Veins and dark spots and all.

Summer of Our Discontent


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Getty Images

Three weeks into summer, and don’t you wish it was New Year’s Eve already? There’s plenty to be grumpy/sad/depressed/angry about:

Donald Trump. The politician who spews hatred and racism is not going to ‘make America great again.’ He’s not. And we learn that this man who cares more about winning than just about anything else may not even want to be President. He wants to win. And he does not care about you.

Hillary Clinton. Do not assume that #I’mWithHer, just because I’m most definitely not with him. I’m not. I don’t think she deserves the presidency, based on her careless, selfish, and unwise choices regarding her role as Secretary of State.

Terrorism. Libya, Iraq, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Baghdad, Somalia, Turkey, Brussels, Pakistan, Kabul, Congo, Yemen, Orlando (Florida), Cameroon. Just this year, and these are only the ‘major’ attacks (in which more than 30 people have died).

Rio. The 2016 Summer Olympics, the leading international sporting event, are being held in a city that is known for its violence. With the opening ceremonies just weeks away, news headlines out of Rio have been dominated by muggings of athletes, body parts washing up on the shore of Copacabana, and a murderous shoot-out in a hospital. Police officers have gone on strike. A drug-resistant super-bacteria has just been discovered on the beaches, possibly caused by all the raw sewage being dumped in the ocean. And don’t forget Zika.

Black Men Being Killed. Based on a tally from The Washington Post, Philando Castile was the 123rd black person to be shot by police in 2016. The day before Castile was killed, Alton Sterling was shot by Baton Rouge police, while he was on the ground. And this past Thursday night, a 25-year-old black man killed five Dallas police officers, aiming for white cops in particular. This has to end.

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That’s a lot to despair about. So we need to find hope. Perhaps in your children’s eyes. They’re looking to you for guidance – so teach them what’s important. Do you pray? (You should!) Prayer isn’t just about asking for something. It’s also a way to express thanks.

Please enlighten my mind with truth

Inflame my heart with love

Inspire my will with courage

Enrich my life with service.

Pardon what I have been

Sanctify what I am;

And order what I shall be.

Amen.

Let Freedom Ring!


Did you know that Rhode Island is home to the nation’s oldest Fourth of July parade? That’s right, the town of Bristol, RI hosts it.

source: Wikipedia

source: Wikipedia

The annual Fourth of July celebration began in 1785. It’s not known exactly when the parade started but it’s thought to have evolved from the procession of community members walking to patriotic exercises (according to the Bristol Fourth of July website). The parade, held on the 4th, is a 2.5 mile-long walk through Bristol.

source: July4thbristolri.com

source: July4thbristolri.com

source: july4thbristolri.com

source: july4thbristolri.com

If you go, get there early! The parade begins at 10:30am. You can’t camp in ‘your spot’ overnight, either – no setting up chairs or blankets before 5:00am. Your best bet is having a friend who lives on or near the parade route. In years past, we drove to a friend’s house (she lives about a quarter-mile from the route) and walked. Attending the parade is definitely something to do at least once if you’re local.

What will you do to celebrate America’s independence? It’s 240 years, you know. Whatever you do, enjoy and be safe!

 

God Awaits You at the Door


That’s a quote from Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez. It seemed appropriate today, as I learn of yet another colleague gone too soon.

goodbye meme

I’m nearly 58 years old, and it’s not unusual for my friends’ parents to pass away. Just this past week, the father of a high school friend died. I’ve attended plenty of wakes and funerals for men and women in their 80s and 90s. I try to prepare for the day that my father-in-law, now 84 and tethered to an oxygen tank, passes.

But when it’s a contemporary…well, it’s sobering. Difficult. Sometimes tragic. Steve never smoked a cigarette and died of lung cancer. Lucy’s husband killed her and then hanged himself. Danny had but three months from his cancer diagnosis to his death. Sue, Tom, Steve, Jack, Tim, Elaine, Kathy, Susan, Ellen, Sally, Lili. And now Jeff.

Working for Hope Hospice, I’m not immune to death. In the two years I’ve been there, I can’t tell you how many familiar names I’ve seen on paperwork. Death is inevitable, of course. We hope that it comes when we’re ready, but does it? Nothing is promised to you in this life…except that, one day, it will end. Rest in eternal peace, Jeff.

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Post-Brexit Uncertainty


 

Roger Cohen of the New York Times termed it a “leap in the dark.”  Donald Trump hailed the vote, crowing that Brits are “taking back their country.” And Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party, declared the vote “a victory against big business and big politics.”

So, what does this vote mean to you? Well, for starters, as I write this post at 9:55am on Friday, the US stock market is down 500 points. You might see your 401K drop 10, 20, or even 30%. That’s your retirement money, the extra you set aside for your later years. The Federal Reserve is watching. There is already a lot of volatility in the world – and we are all connected, you know – Asian markets fall, the British pound sterling plummets.

Spain is calling for joint control of Gibraltar. Scotland, which voted to remain in the EU, began a new move today to hold a new referendum on independence from the UK. And perhaps most importantly, Brexit spreads across Europe, with Italy, France, the Netherlands, and Denmark all calling for referendums. Is immigration the reason? Possibly it is the major reason. “Between 1993 and 2014, the foreign-born population in the UK more than doubled, from 3.8 million to around 8.3 million, said Oxford researchers Cinzia Rienzo and Carlos Vargas-Silva. “During the same period, the number of foreign citizens increased from nearly 2 million to more than 5 million.”

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In my opinion, the Brexit vote wasn’t about the economy. It was about xenophobia. And if America doesn’t pay close attention, we could follow down the same dark path.

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One Week Sugar Free (Again)


too-much-sugar

I won’t give up trying! If you’re a faithful reader of this blog (thank you!), you know I’ve written about sugar in the past. Something that tastes so good but is so, so bad. Yes, me, the woman who has written a trilogy of books with the word chocolate in the titles. I’m smart, but I didn’t always get it. (Actually, it’s not the chocolate that’s hurting you, it’s the sugar.)

After watching the documentary Sugar Coated, I was convinced, once and for all, that sugar is harming me more than any other substance. More than salt (which I don’t consume in large quantities, especially having cut out a lot of processed food), way more than (good) fat. Eggs don’t cause heart attackssugar does. Sugar causes obesity and diabetes, too. And the reason we’re at epidemic stage is because sugar has been added to just about every food that’s manufactured. 80% of the foods in your typical supermarket have added sugar.

Panko bread crumbs, ketchup, peanut butter. Jarred pasta sauce, salsa, flavored yogurt. Canned soup, salad dressing, granola bars. Anything purported to be low-fat or fat-free (remember those Snackwells?)

So I’m making a determined effort to stop, even forgoing stevia in my coffee and tea. No maple syrup on my oatmeal. And after a week, I do feel better. My taste buds are adjusting. But I’m still learning.

For the past year, I’ve been using PLNT brand plant-based protein powder in my morning shake. It only has 1g of sugar per scoop, but until today, I hadn’t looked closely at the ingredients. The label advises: Dairy Free, Fish Free, Gluten Free, Soy Free, Wheat Free, Yeast Free, non-GMO, kosher and vegetarian.

PLNT back

Here are some of the ingredients listed: inulin, chocolate, cocoa, stevia, xanthan gum, natural vanilla, silica, glycine, and maltodextrin.

It was eye-opening for me! All those polysaccharides! I’ll be switching to a new recipe….

Anyway, I’m one week sugar-free and still okay. Our refrigerator is full of vegetables and fruit and unsweetened almond milk. The cupboard shelves hold chia, hemp seeds, bee pollen, and cinnamon.

 

The Silence of Summer


I live in a quiet neighborhood of condos. There are few children, mostly older people or young singles and couples who don’t spend a lot of time at home. Quiet is good, especially for someone like me who is home a lot, writing, reading, thinking.

On Saturday morning, I took a walk up the hill and into another neighborhood, this one filled with houses and lawns. Families and kids. It was a beautiful day on the cusp of summer. And it was quiet.

Where was the hissing of summer lawns? The shouts of kids playing on swing sets and jungle gyms?

The jingle of the ice cream truck?

Oh hot summer days, windows are closed and there’s only the hum of air conditioners. Porches are empty – no one sits outside with a glass of cold lemonade, relishing the evening breeze. Too hot, too buggy. Quiet. The silence of summer.

The Eight Months of Chocolate Takes a Respite


Because it’s too hot! This past week, I received a package from one of my junior-year-abroad friends who had traveled back to Switzerland on business. I knew this because he posted some lovely photos on Facebook, and (of course) I hinted at my favorite Swiss chocolate bar, one that can’t be bought here in the USA.

swiss chocolate bars DV

He’s a good guy, and sent me two! My husband and I dug into the Giandor first, but we’re saving the Frigor. Saving it for what? Christmas? Hey, it’ll be gone by the next blog post.

Anyway, it’s getting too hot for chocolate, isn’t it? The Giandor was a little soft. So take a break! We all know that the Halloween candy will be back on the shelves as soon as the munchkins are back in school this fall. And thus begins another round of the Eight Months of Chocolate. October through May – Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, after-Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day. Any excuse to sell/buy/consume it. Aren’t you chocolated out by now?

Strawberry Ice Cream Cone

Strawberry Ice Cream Cone

Take a break from chocolate. It’s ice cream season!

And in case you were wondering, I have limited my sugar intake tremendously.

 

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