Sunday, August 18, 2019

Poem of the Week: Dad at 80

Dad at 80

My invincible shield
sleeps in the living room,
curled like a leaf,
the way I slept
when I was small.

I tuck blankets around him,
a snug cocoon,
kissing his forehead,
remembering 5am
and the sound of winter.

I wrote this last year, actually, but wasn't ready to post it until now.  It's looking like my dad's last weeks, maybe months, so prayers are appreciated.  I'm off again tomorrow to go back to NJ.  Sorry for the light posting this summer, it's sort of been like this: beauty and sorrow in equal large helpings.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Poem of the Week: Sea Fever

Sea Fever

By John Masefield
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

HT: Poetry Foundation

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Guest Blog by The Emperor: Massawepie Round 2

Welcome to Part Two of Two, the part of the Massawepie story where I actually tell you about Massawepie!

Sunday morning, after Mass, we got to camp and unloaded. While doing so, Choclo, who was wearing sandals, cut his foot on a branch. We patched it up, thinking nothing of it, and went off to the MedCheck & Swim Tests, which are always the first two things in any summer camp.

But a surprise awaited us at MedCheck. They looked at Choclo’s foot and decided that he couldn’t swim that week (swimming was in a lake, not a pool). He was signed up for the swimming merit badge for his first two periods out of six, so obviously, he would have to be reassigned.

We went down to the lake and did our swim tests (all but him), finished unpacking, and had the
somewhat insubstantial meal the dining hall served. It was by far the loudest dining hall any of us had ever been in.

They kept us busy all day long, but at the end of the day was the “Drop/Add” session, where we tried to change Choclo’s Swimming badge. It was then that we learned Choclo was not, in fact, signed up for swimming. In fact, none of the boys were signed up for anything at all.

 They had received our order & sent a receipt, but hadn’t put any boys into
any actual merit badge classes. We had to sign the boys up for whatever was still open, stuffing them into already-overstuffed classes, whether they had requested them or not. The situation was not ideal, but there it was, and we had no choice but accept it.


Once it was there, though, it wasn’t so bad. Alex, our Assistant SPL, was put into a class of Swimming & Water Rescue, which is a certification rather than a merit badge, but that suited him just fine, as it gives him an edge in lifeguarding or even working at another summer camp in the future. 

The other boys were given between four and six merit badge classes each, ranging from canoeing and shotgun to white-border badges necessary for the Eagle rank, such as cooking and First Aid. During their regular classes, our scouts completed 33 merit badges and earned 11 partials.

One of the most exciting things about Massawepie was its “open program,” which encouraged scouts to come during their free time and try to earn extra merit badges. Our seven boys who participated in open program got 17 badges in chess, fingerprinting, scouting heritage, fishing, and collections, as well as two partials (which will likely be finished by August 20) in plant science.

Between the regular and open programs, then, the nine boys in Troop 740 earned an astonishing 50 merit badges and 13 partials. Oob, earned nine badges and four partials on his own, while Choclo, earned seven badges and three partials.

Now, there were two natural hazards to get around at Massawepie. The first were the mosquitos. Here in Maryland, our mosquitos obey the laws of chemistry and physics—if you wear DEET or burn a citronella candle, the beasts generally stay away; if not, you get bit by the nigh-invisible critters. Up north, it’s a bit reversed. No matter how much DEET, citronella, or other chemical you used, these particular mosquitos went right on attacking. And they were large. So large, in fact, that when they landed on you, you could feel it, and believe me, you could see them, too. The advantage to this is that their bulk made them so slow that you could hit them about 75-80% of the time. The bad point was that there was just nothing you could do to get rid of them.

The second hazard was the night time. It got cold—much colder than I was expecting, anyway. Here it was, July, yet one night it got down to 38 degrees Fahrenheit. I almost needed to put my sleeping bag in a sleeping bag, that night. (It did warm up after that.)

There were a few other shining points here and there, like Juan’s perfect model rocket flight on Friday morning, Ian’s painting of a troop sign to hang in the dining hall, D.C.’s gathering a crowd for his accordion performance, Alex’s eventual certification in Swimming & Water Rescue, and our roaring rendition of “Going over the Sea” (complete with rocking canoe) for the skit, but the week eventually came to an end, as all things must. We packed up and returned to Tupper Lake for their special Woodsmans’ Day celebration.

There, we saw a parade I’d wager very few Marylanders have seen the likes of. For an hour and fifteen minutes, trucks (many of them logging trucks), cars, motorcycles, and even bagpipers came parading by, tossing double-handfuls of candy by the roadside at any kids they saw, including our scout troop. We ended up leaving piles strewn on the street; there was simply too much to pick up! Each boy ended up with perhaps a pound of free candy in his pocket, as well as a lot of laughter.

We then walked down to the Woodsman’s Day Festival itself, the main attraction of which was chainsaw art: wood carvings, made by chainsaw, everything from owls to bears to manta rays. Several people took selfies with Groot.

After getting back on the road, our final stop before Chenango Valley State Park was a funny little hotel, at the back of which was a steep slope of shale. But this shale was special: it was full of fossils from the Denovian era. Each boy was able to pick out several rocks with fossils ranging from ancient clams and snails to plant life. One even found a trilobite!

We basically collapsed at Chenango Valley State Park, then drove a couple of hours to a nice little
church for Mass. Well, it was nicer than we thought—they all insisted that we share breakfast with them, and we shared quite a nice conversation about scouting.

We even turned out to know some friends of one of them, and by coincidence, we had spent summer camp 2018 at their local summer camp, Bashore, a convenient conversation point. All told, it served as an excellent break for the Sunday drive back home.

It was the longest campout many of the boys had ever gone on. For some, it will be the longest campout they’ll ever go on. It was a multi-faceted adventure. It was alternately exhilarating and exhausting. And it was an unforgettable success.--

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Guest Blog by The Emperor: Massawepie Round 1

Greetings from Camp Massawepie! Let me tell you about all the awesome things or boys have been doing and seeing here in Tupper Lake, NY.

We left Holy Redeemer on Tuesday July 2nd and drove about five hours to Schenago Campground in southern New York. The night was uneventful, except for the 1:30 siren at the nearby fire station that woke a third of the troop, some of whom had trouble re-settling.

Nevertheless, we pressed on the following day, and after another five hours arrived at the home of Mr

LaVoy's parents, Bruce and Jane. Getting to meet them, and to know them over the course of the week, was an honor and a privilege. We set up camp in their backyard and departed to climb Mt. Arab.  An old fire watch tower was on top, and we spent probably half an hour just gazing at the panorama from the tower--no photo could possibly encapsulate the grandeur.

That evening, we watched fireworks (yes, fireworks here are on the 3rd) over the lake, and all agreed that they were among the best, if not the single best, they had ever seen, with flashing, sparkling lights that set gold dust in the sky by double handfuls and sounds that hit one in the chest like the bass drop at a rock concert. It was really an experience.

On Independence Day (which took us a few hours to realize, fireworks having taken place the night previous), we toured lower Lower Lowes Dam , where Mr. Lavoy had done some enjoyable winter camping as a teenager with his brother (in the dam itself), and climbed Goodman Mountain. The more exciting part was descending! We decided to avoid paths and "bushwhack" our way down, sliding, bouncing, and frequently braking. Much fun was had, and we definitely pushed the boys' horizons. We then went swimming at Little Wolf Lake, where we had a simple hot dog lunch. 

Leaving the mountain, we went to a natural cold spring (about 55 degrees), and the water was so delicious and refreshing that some of us drank our entire water bottles right there and filled up again, wishing we had brought gallon jugs. At 9 pm, we boarded canoes for an eleven-mile canoe trip. It ended up taking longer than it had taken in previous years, as this was a moonless night. The advantage was a perfect look at the Milky Way in it's full glory. The disadvantage? While we could (mostly) see each other & the water's edge, or ability to navigate was limited by the heavy darkness, and we didn't get back to camp until a weary 1:30 am.

Even the morning larks in our troop slept in Friday morning. We deliberately took it easy that day, taking only one outing--a fifteen-minute canoe trip to an island. The non-swimmers of the troop cooked lunch while the rest jumped from the high cliff into the lake below. I'm among the non-jumpers, but I'm told it was quite a rush.

That evening, we had a guest for dinner, local professional storyteller Roger Hastler, who regaled us with multiple narrative, humorous poems in his memorized repertoire. He mentioned two favorite poets, Robert W. Service and; "this guy Anonymous, who seems to have written quite a few."

On Saturday the 6th, the last day of our pre-camp adventure, we went to the Anarondack Wild Center.
Being from Washington D.C. and accustomed to the Smithsonian, we weren't expecting anything special. Just goes to show you--this little town has a truly world-class museum about both the natural world and the life of Native Americans in the Adirondacks, and a lot of it (especially outside) is interactive. Or favorite parts were probably the otters, the storyteller with the live porcupine, and the play web outside. 

Following our trip to the museum, we tried to do some rappelling, but it quickly became evident that it was too wet and slippery to do so safely, so we switched gears and went early to our third planned location, the natural water slides at Bog River Falls. The swimmers had a ton of fun in the drink, and the non-swimmers explored the area and got some fantastic photos. 

That evening ended up being "pizza night," and after a few more poems--these from Mr. Lavoy's own (smaller) repertoire--we went to bed for the last time in his parents' back yard.

But there was still one more surprise in store for us. The next morning at Mass, whom should we meet but Bruce's old scoutmaster, Dick Preemo, still kicking around Tupper Lake this many years later. What an honor to meet one of the men who had brought his father up in scouting, when Loren is still influencing young men in scouting today.

In a later post, we'll tell you about Massawepie itself!

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Poem of the Week: I Saw a Man

"I saw a man pursuing the horizon"

I saw a man pursuing the horizon;
Round and round they sped.
I was disturbed at this;   
I accosted the man.
“It is futile,” I said,
“You can never —”

“You lie,” he cried,   
And ran on. 

Friday, August 2, 2019


 The Emperor and I flew down to Memphis to spend a few days with our friend Fr. Mark.

He's from New Orleans, but we've known him since he came to our area to get his doctorate in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

We had a great time talking about everything from religion to history to science to politics to movies!

Then we were off to Arkansas to visit our Aunt Toni!  This is my dear late MIL's sister.

The Emperor had brought along a huge pile of family photos and slides full of people for her to identify.

We had a fantastic time talking about family pictures and old stories and just being together.

She's the only one who still calls me Baby Girl, something I value more than ever as I near 50!

And we got to see our cousins Dave and Barb.  Barb is a master weaver and she's trying to get me started (with a suitcase full of yarn!)!

It was a lovely trip filled with lovely conversations with truly some of our favorite people that we never get to see. 

It was squeezed into a jam packed summer, but it's something I wouldn't have missed for anything!

Thursday, August 1, 2019


It was Thursday. We were hip deep in kitchen and household renovations when Leena mentioned that she was having problems with her newest pair of gerbils.  Percy was eating much more than his brother, Anton, and was actually getting a bit tubby.

Hmmm.  Well, I didn't have time to think much about it, so I suggested she put extra food in the cage to make sure poor Anton got enough food, and we'd figure it out later.

The next day Leena had me hold Percy.  He was definitely the heftiest gerbil I'd ever seen.  But the Emperor and the younger boys were due back in two days.  Clearly there was a problem, I just didn't have time to research it now.  Besides, Percy and Anton both seemed pretty healthy otherwise.

First day
Saturday morning, Leena came to me with the surprising news that Percy was no longer fat.

And we now had five wiggly pink jelly beans in a corner of the cage.

And Percy turns out to be short for Persephone.

Sigh.  I've been pregnant how many times and I didn't figure it out?!

This is our fifth pair of gerbils and the first error by the pet store.

7 days

10 days
Honestly, this was not the plan, but...

They're so cute!

And we are handling them every day, so they are extremely tame and sweet.

13 days
15 days
Percy turned out to be a good mom, except for the part where she stuffed all her babies in the gerbil wheel, then forgot (?!) and started running.

Fortunately, the babies were all fine!

We figured out we have 3 girls and two boys.
18 days

And then yesterday the first one opened her eyes!

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Poem of the Week: An Old Road

An Old Road

A host of poppies, a flight of swallows;   
A flurry of rain, and a wind that follows   
Shepherds the leaves in the sheltered hollows
   For the forest is shaken and thinned.

Over my head are the firs for rafter;
The crows blow south, and my heart goes after;
I kiss my hands to the world with laughter—
   Is it Aidenn or mystical Ind?

Oh, the whirl of the fields in the windy weather!
How the barley breaks and blows together!   
Oh, glad is the free bird afloat on the heather—
   Oh, the whole world is glad of the wind!

HT: Poetry Foundation 
Image HT: Quiksilver

I know I've done this one before, but I've been memorizing this one lately and I find it so delightful!

Friday, July 26, 2019

All the Things Part 3: the Kitchen

First off, I should mention what you aren't seeing.  We filled our entire carport twice with trash and recycling, and gave away nearly as much stuff. I find this level of organizing equally exhausting and liberating.

 Anyway, the main problem we had in the kitchen was that we had literally worn through our (16 year old) counters.

The new counters should outlast me- they are engineered quartz, and we had them professionally installed.

Oob picked them out, but I love them too.  The pattern is called Ocean Storm, and to me, they look very much like the stormy North Atlantic of my childhood.

I liked the ocean theme so much, we painted the walls blue with creamy tan trim.

 Our biggest problem was the floor.Honestly the kids did most of the hard work on this.

We had to scrape up two layers of vinyl tile and sometimes a layer of vinyl sheet, then we had to patch the floor.

Then we installed vinyl planks.

It was our first experience doing a floating floor, and I have to say, I really love it.  It feels uncannily like actual wood, but it's completely waterproof.

Klenda expertly color matched fabrics and sewed pillows for the window seat.

I put a few favorite shells in the window.

And I hung my grandmother's painting of the ocean!

We even finished all the trim before the boys returned, but that was down to the wire.

I thought I miter might not make it.