Boondock Ramblings

A little bit about a lot of things by Lisa R. Howeler

Every night and every nap for the last two years my daughter has had to listen to Frank Sinatra’s “In The Wee Small Hours” album while she’s falling asleep.

I’ve tried to change the music without her knowing but as young as two she would look at me and say “no. I want frank.” In the beginning she called him “Frank Satra,” but as she grew she knew how to pronounce his name clearly and she let me know no one else would do – no Nat King Cole or Diana Krall or even a different album by Frank.

I finally slipped in some Dean Martin from his “Sleep Warm” album, skipping over the slightly faster songs thrown in the middle of the more gentle and melodic tunes, and she accepted it.

Last night I decided to try some Sarah Vaughn, who I’ve never actually listened to that much, but we only got two songs in before I heard an exasperated sigh in the dark.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, hoping to God she did not ask me for the snack she’d tried to tell me she needed a few moments earlier, even though it was way past her bedtime.

“It’s the music,” she said with exasperation dripping off each word. “It’s just not working.”

Now it was my turn for a sigh. I switched the Apple Music on my phone to the playlist of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.

She relaxed in the darkness, obviously content, and in less than five minutes she was fast asleep to the smooth, soothing baritone of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.

Someday we’ll find another artist who lulls her into a state of pure relaxation but for now Dean and Frank remain our close and repetitive friends.

Looking at her young face staring back at me from the vintage, monochrome photograph it suddenly struck me how young she had been when her world fell apart. Her story was family folklore, passed down as one of those subjects discussed in hushed tones and only around certain family members.

Here she was, though, appearing to me younger than I had ever imagined her when I had heard the stories as a child, a teen and even as an adult. I saw in her eyes a bit of fear, maybe trepidation, but also a lot of grit mixed with the slightest hint of humor.


When she’d met the man she would one day married she was head over heels in love. He was handsome and charming, and loud and boisterous. Some, though, especially her family, called him trouble.

She wrote love letters to him and told him she couldn’t wait until they could be alone again, married and on their own.

The details are hazy, the story one fractured by memories not as strong as they once were, possible family biases, maybe a bit of resentment and a whole lot of “he said, she said.” What is known is they married, he did something that hurt her deeply, her family chased him off with a shotgun and she came home with a 2-month old baby and soon to be divorced, something not often heard of at that time.

The baby was born with the last name of Hakes, but a line was struck through that name and it was eliminated, one might say. When the divorce was final the baby’s last name became Robinson, his mother’s maiden name, and stayed that way, even when she became an Allen through a new marriage, years later. Family lore, accurate or not, says her family wouldn’t allow the little boy to have his father’s last name. So, the baby, my grandfather, was Hakes by blood but not by name.

Raising a son alone, so young, with a broken heart and maybe added shame, must have been close to impossible, even with the help of her family. I often wonder how those events shaped her inner being, how it maybe led her to throw up walls that it took years to let down, if she ever did.

It seems when we get older we are told new stories about family members, or more of the story or maybe we just listen better and find out what we had always thought was the full story really wasn’t.

More pieces to the puzzle of the story of my great aunt, taken away from her family to live in a mental hospital and then a nursing home were recently given to me, correcting my belief that she was placed in the home at a young age. Instead, she was apparently closer to 30 when her parents had her committed and one reason was the fear she would harm my dad, who was about three or four at the time.

And she wasn’t really abandoned there, as I had previously thought. Instead, she withdrew into herself after years of odd behavior and her parents felt she was safer in the hospital. They also had limited income and only one vehicle to visit her with or bring her home.

So while I heard new information about my great aunt’s story recently, the story that remains a mystery for most of our family is what really led to my great-grandmother Blanche leaving Howard Hakes. It’s not really a topic you bring up when meeting distant relations only at family funerals every few years.

“Hey, so whatever happened with that whole divorce thing with Blanch and Howard anyhow?” you can’t simply ask. Or, “Was that Howard a real jerk or what’s the real story?”

It wouldn’t exactly be polite dinner (or funeral) conversation.

There are the family “rumors”, of course. He liked his parties, women, and alcohol, was the one rumor. Blanche, had finally had enough, some say, and she left Waverly, NY, considered the “big city” back then in the early 1900s and returned to her family’s farm with her young son, Walter, who happens to be my grandfather.

It’s always a bit awkward to write about family drama when some of those family members who might know more are still alive so I will admit that I know very little about what led to the end of the marriage. Not too mention, because it was so long ago and I never met Blanche and was only about 2 when my grandfather died, I don’t have a “dog in this fight” so to speak. I don’t see either party as an enemy or at fault, simply because I wasn’t there, therefore I truly have no idea.

What I do have is a wonder about how Blanche felt about it all, and even how Howard felt. And when you get right down to it, what did Walter feel about it?I wish he was around for me to ask.


Whatever led to the failed marriage, it came and my grandfather was raised without knowing his father. It wasn’t until Blanche died, well after my grandfather was an adult with two adult daughters and one young son, that Howard showed back up. My dad remembers he was about 13, returning from a Boy Scout camp out,  when a man approached him in town and told him, “I’m your grandfather.”

Later that day, sitting with my grandfather on the porch of my dad’s house, now remarried and a father of other children, Howard tried to make peace with his firstborn, asking him, “Well, your first born is always your favorite, aren’t they?”

“I don’t play favorites,” my dad remembers my grandfather saying in a deep, stern voice.

My dad was the baby of the family, his sister Eleanor was the oldest and sister Doris the middle. And no, Walter wasn’t going to play favorites.

Maybe Grandpa was telling Howard he wasn’t about to accept an attempt to suggest one child should be loved over another as any type of apology for being an absent father.

Even if my grandfather couldn’t accept the failed attempt of an apology that day, some sort of peace was made. Visits were had, half-sisters were met and Howard’s funeral was even attended many years later.

Two, faded and short, letters are tucked away in a jewelry box in my parent’s room and my parents aren’t even sure where they came from. It’s clear they were written by Blanche to Howard and start with “My Love.”

“They are heartbreaking,” my mom told me one day. “She really loved him.”

And she did. Telling Howard she hoped his new job was going well and that she couldn’t wait “until you are here in my bedroom with me again.”

Gasp! In her bedroom?

Scandalous stuff for 1900.

Maybe so scandalous some in my family might not think I should air the family’s “dirty laundry.”

But, if we are honest, every family has their own dirty laundry and some of that dirty laundry isn’t really dirty, but just heartbreak caused by broken people.

This is part of a monthly 10 on 10 series where a group of photographers shares ten photos from either the previous month or one day on the tenth day of the month. Please see the bottom of the post for the link to the next blogger in the circle.


I was “that mom” at our local library one day at the beginning of August. I was at the library for a bench dedication that my newspaper editor husband had asked me to take photos of because he couldn’t attend.

The sky had opened up and was releasing a deluge of water, pooling it in the front yard of the library, next to the sidewalk when we got there.

My daughter had put on her rain boots before we left and I knew she’d absolutely love jumping in that puddle on our way back out. She is a puddle jumping junkie. When we came out of the library I told her she could jump in the puddle, envisioning quick leaps in place and stomping feet. But this is my child we are talking about and her older brother was there so I should have known better.

Before I knew it I had two kids soaked almost head to toe, partially from the rain and partially from puddle jumping.

A few people walked by as the pair of them jumped and there were brief grins, one stoic glance and at least two expressions from mothers that I can only describe as a mix of pity and disbelief.

I saw the strained smile on the face of one mother as she walked by and she could have been thinking a hundred different things but I chuckled thinking she might be the mom I sometimes feel guilty I’m not – the one who winces at the sight of disorder and mess, the organized mother, the one who likes her children like her vehicle -clean and efficient.


“Good luck with that mess. I’d never let my kids do that,” I imagined her thinking to herself.

Of course, she might have been thinking “I should have let my kids do that when they asked.” Or “I wish I had been able to have children so I could watch them jump like that.” Or something not even related to my puddle splashing children.

I’ll never know what that mom was thinking but this mom was thinking how happy she was that her kids were being kids and didn’t need electricity to do it.


The children who walked by were putting their heads down and dutifully followed their parents or grandparents, walking briskly past all the fun to get to their cars. I bet they were secretly wishing their parents would let them jump in mud puddles.

Hey, at least those children who were walking were walking out of a library, carrying a book, experiencing life beyond a computer screen.

DSC_8992DSC_8999Maybe that’s what’s missing these days – the chance to jump in some mud puddles. I mean – come on – it’s fun, Mom and Dad! Let them jump! They can wash their clothes later. And the inside of the car? Eh, find a coat to sit them on for the drive home after they have fallen in the puddle, twice, like my kid did.

Perhaps I should have been more concerned about the interior of my van, but, well, my kids were having fun. Their faces had lit up. They were giggling and smiling and quite frankly we needed it that day, after a long, sometimes emotional weekend full of family losses and challenges.


And, as usual, I took photos to remind me that, yes, kids can and should have fun by fully immersing themselves in the simple moments of life but also to remember that sometimes we have to push through the mess to find the joy.


To continue the blog circle for this months 10 on 10 and to see some wonderful images, click over to Jennifer’s blog

We are holding on to the last drops of summer here, especially since most of August we were drenched from the continuous rain.

We usually visit a local campground near us two or three times a summer but this year we’d only visited once before severe humidity, flash-flooding producing rain and a summer cold hit us. In previous visits my daughter wasn’t interested in the small splash pad they have there, but this time she ran in and out of the water and giggled each time the water dropped and came back up again.

DSC_0386DSC_0283DSC_0440It was fun to watch her have so much fun with it. It was also fun for my family to laugh at me when one of the fountains sprayed me in the back unexpectedly while I was wearing my regular clothes and photographing Little Miss darting in and out of the streams of water.

Since we are homeschooling this year we didn’t feel as rushed to hurry up and cram in as much as we could once the sun came back out and before the school bus arrived.

We drove by my son’s old school on the second day for students there, on the way back from a day at the pool, and I felt a rush of excitement at the prospect of a new way of learning and experiencing education.

I remembered the tight knots that used to draw up my stomach each August when I knew my son had to go back to school and I would see less of him throughout the day. I briefly felt the old feelings again before a refreshing feeling of relief rushed through me and I began to think about the opportunities we’ll have with homeschooling and the local homeschooling group.


Also unlike previous years I don’t feel the rush to plan as many activities for the last week before school starts. While there are some activities we won’t be able to enjoy once the weather gets colder, there are others we will be able to take time off from school work to do, days out at the playground, hikes, and visits to area zoos or museums. Many of these activities can, and will, count as educational field trips throughout the year. Flexibility is one thing I’m looking forward to with homeschooling.


Since we can start school when we like, as long as we fit 180 days in before June 30, we are giving ourselves another couple of weeks to enjoy the warmer temperatures and visit some local attractions, including an animal park in Upstate New York that’s home to the giraffe everyone was waiting to give birth a couple of years ago. Incidentally, she’s pregnant again, if you didn’t know.

So to savor these last drops of summer I think we’ll take it easy, except that one planned field trip, and we will drink some lemonade, visit my parents in the country, maybe go fishing at my dad’s pond (which we haven’t done yet either this summer), and simply enjoy these carefree days before we have to be a little more intentional about how we spend our hours.

It was a humid August night and the field next to the now defunct dairy barn was full of equipment and maybe a couple hundred people. An auction trailer was set up off to one side and to anyone driving by it might have looked like some sort of community festival, complete with hot dogs and drinks and baked goods. But this wasn’t a party or celebration; it was the end of an era.


The Robbins family had been farming this land and milking cows here for more than 40 years but debt and the inability to survive financially forced them to make the hardest decision in their lives – sell the farm equipment and the livestock. If that sale didn’t cover the debt they’d sell the barn, house and property too, Billie Jo Robbins said, admitting she was unsure what the future held for her family but that her faith in God’s plan for their lives was helping to lessen some of the anxiety.

She had taken a job at the local bank the year before to try to help the farm stay in business, but as milk prices dropped and operation costs rose, the family couldn’t plug the holes fast enough. Her husband, Paul, recently took a job at the local cheese making factory and the dream of passing the farm on to their two sons, Matthew and Kevin, is now gone.

The loss of a family identity and business is heartbreaking but even more heartbreaking is that the Robbins aren’t alone in their struggle and forced life changes.



“Local dairy farmers forced to auction off farm.”

It’s a headline that should be in more newspapers and on more news sites than it is because it is real and it is happening in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, where the Robbins live, but also all across the country.

It isn’t only dairy farmers being forced to close their doors. Farmers of all types are being crushed under the blow of low product pricing, but dairy farms are being hit the hardest and according to various media outlets the hard hits are coming for a variety of reasons, one of those an oversupply of milk. Some question if the push for people to drink less dairy and more plant-based proteins is one reason the dairy industry is suffering, but this seems unlikely with Americans love of ice cream, pizza and milkshakes still going strong.


And even worse than the farms closing down are the suicides of farmers who collapsed mentally and emotionally under the weight of the pressure and the feeling of failure.

According to an article on the National Public Radio (NPR) site, one co-op had three out of 1,000 farmers commit suicide in three years, and while those stats might not seem alarming by quantity the fact they are happening at all when at one time they weren’t, is frightening.

Even here in Bradford County farmers are receiving letters from their co-ops, first with dismal news about the future of dairy prices and the information for suicide hotlines and how to find counselors.


DSC_9324_1DSC_9268Standing in that field the day of the Robbins’ auction one has to wonder who these buyers are. Local farmers? Corporate farmers? Farmers barely getting by themselves? Billie Jo wondered too and admitted it felt awkward selling their equipment to farmers who may be struggling the same way they were. She didn’t recognize many of the people there but others she knew because they were there for something more important than buying.

“Many came here simply to support us and that means so much,” Billie Jo said.

Farmers support each other, which is one reason many farms in this area of Pennsylvania are surviving at all.


Sitting in a truck, waiting for her husband, a farmer from Troy says she doesn’t know what the main reason for milk prices dropping so low is but she feels before long the Bradford County landscape won’t be dotted with very many family farms anymore. She and her husband, now in their 70s, own a dairy farm and can’t imagine doing anything else. They’ll keep farming as long as they can.

Knowing they aren’t alone in their heartache or their struggle helps the Robbins deal with their situation easier than some might. Their faith in God keeps them trusting that beauty will come from ashes.


To read more about the struggles of dairy farms in Pennsylvania you can visit my posts on The state of dairy farming in Northeast Pennsylvania: tangible struggles, palpable heartache and immeasurable joy and The Farm and Tell Me More About . . . Mark Bradley, Sayre Pa Dairy Farmer

The day the library died in the tiny town of New Albany, Pennsylvania, rain fell from the clouds like a waterfall and didn’t stop. The already saturated ground gave way with nothing left to hold it in place. A week before the bottom floor of the library had taken on water in another flash flood, most likely weakening the foundation.
Volunteers were working to clean out the ruined books two days before the water rose again, sending water rushing up around the building as it had before, across the major highway running through town and toward the gas station in the middle of town.
This time the building couldn’t withstand the rush of the water. No one had expected it all to wash into highway it had sat next to for over 60 years, crumbling like a matchstick house, but it did, taking with it some of what one community member called “the dedication of so many to keep it going.”
The downstairs of the building, where the library was, was empty of people when the building collapsed, but a family upstairs was there and held on tight to each other as it fell and their apartment landed fully intact in the water rushing by. Neighbors and the local fire department helped to rescue them, pulling them out and across the rushing water to safety.
The building hadn’t always been a library. A few times it had been a store and above it was an apartment for those who ran the business downstairs. After it became the town library many volunteers, most middle-aged to older women who were retired or homemakers, filled it with books, organizing and categorizing and creating a gift for what some might call a dying town.
Inside its walls were whole new worlds; voices never before heard, thoughts never before thought, dreams never before dreamed, chances to be given, opportunities to be provided, and lives to be escaped for just a little while.
For some, a library doesn’t seem very important, especially in this modern age when books can be read on digital devices and smartphones. But to a town without much, a library can provide a sense of community, a sense of imagination, and even a feeling of belonging.
“Expand your mind” is the encouraging message added at the top of the library’s Facebook page, updated the week flood waters first damaged the library.
Who could blame members of the town if they felt a desire to give up a little bit more on the town when they saw the crumbled ruins of the library either in person or in photos. Some 30 years ago the only factory in town closed, and in subsequent years the town pool was filled in, the only local supermarket burned to the ground, the town bank closed, the elementary school closed, the population began to dwindle and hope began to fade.
The factory never came back but the store reopened and later became a mini-mart and gas station, there was still a post office, a beauty shop, a borough park where the pool once was, and a sense of community- if only one that hung by a thread.
While the town may be dying from an economic standpoint, there are some trying to keep the community feel alive by organizing family days, fire company fundraisers, and, of course, preschool storytime at the library.

Let’s be honest, anyone trying to keep the community feeling in a small town alive today should be commended since it isn’t the physical community that is dying in today’s society, but the idea behind what a community really is. Defined by Webster’s dictionary as “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals,” the psychological idea of community is fading into a world where our primary form of communication is smartphones and social media, or anything that doesn’t involve actual in-person interaction.

When photos of the library smashed in the middle of Route 220 surfaced on social media last week a deep feeling of loss was expressed, maybe because so many remembered a simpler time when talking to people face-to-face was normal and days for reading and focusing on less than 10 activities at a time was normal.


Honestly, there isn’t much to the town anymore, in some ways. I grew up two miles from there and many of my days were spent riding bikes with my best friends, Julia and Sarah, on its’ streets. I attended the elementary school, swam in the community pool, walked to the local store for snacks, ate with my grandmother at the small diners that are now gone, and yes, even visited the library a couple of times.
For me and others, losing the library was like watching even more of the community break away. After the most recent flash flooding, the library won’t be the only building that will have to be torn down, a fact that only adds to the heartbreak.
“I can’t remember a time without the library,” one man said.
His mother, Doris, was one of the volunteers who worked to build the library’s collection. Now in a nursing home, she asks visitors from her hometown, “How’s the library doing?” Family and friends have decided they won’t tell her the truth about the building, but instead simply let her believe, as they’ve always told her, “It’s doing well.”
Another resident, Todd, said, “The library was a labor of love of so many people. There were many times when some thought it was not used and thus not needed, but these people persevered and keep it going. There were times when hardly anyone came, but they still were there during operating hours. The people were dedicated to keeping the library open, found ways to bring in new books and create programs for kids. And most recently, it became a place for local histories and genealogies. Breaks my heart to see it completely washed away. “
“I remember being very young and going to get a book. It was a big deal to be able to pick your own book out!” a cousin of mine, Gila, said. “I started volunteering at 16 with Doris. I’d stay a few years and then move on. I always came back.

She was one of the main volunteers running the library, updating and rearranging it in the years and months before the flood destroyed it.
Volunteers aren’t yet sure if, or how, they’ll rebuild the library. A fundraising effort has started and the hope is that one day they’ll find a new home where they can again open a  small bastion of imagination, nurtured community and unvetted learning in a small, sometimes physically crumbling town.
Since I recently rediscovered my love for reading full books, and not only short excerpts, I’d love to see the fundraiser succeed and for the spark of knowledge to be lit again. And maybe through it, a desire to rebuild the other parts of town damaged or falling apart even before the flood.
To learn more about the fundraiser to rebuild the library click on this link….

This is part of a monthly blog circle where photographers and bloggers share ten photos from the previous month on the tenth day of the month. To follow the circle find the next link at the bottom of the blog post, after my dog has finished her ramblings.

I haven’t been anything but trouble this summer.

DSC_5444That’s what my Mooom tells me anyhow.

She’s not really my Mooom but that’s what the short, loud human calls her so I do too. Plus she’s like a mama to me now that I live here with the human daddy and Plaything One and Plaything Two. She feeds me, cuddles me, tells me I’m a good girl and she even scolds me, just like a mama.

This summer she’s scolded me a lot. She doesn’t let me have any fun.

Before I go too much further I should tell you who I am. I’m Zooma the Wonder Dog, and I’ve talked to you before, filling you in on my adventures since I was adopted from the farm.

I hear my name yelled a lot these days and I happily bark back at the sound, even when it’s said in “that way” – the “annoyed tone” as Moooom calls it.

“Zooma!” “Zoooooma!” and “ZOOMA!” are how I hear my name a lot. It’s usually followed by statements such as:

“What are you eating?!”

“Stop eating that!”

“Get down off that table!”

“Did you just pee in there?!”

“That’s not where you poop! You poop OUTSIDE!”

“Leave the cat alone!”

Ah. The cat.

I call her The Beast.

She totally loves me. She does.

Don’t let the flailing and hissing fool you. We’re best friends. We totally are. She loves when I nip at her ears and chase her up onto the couch and corner her under the table. Those flying paws are a simple greeting of joy and adoration. Sure, she catches me with one of those sharp things on the end of her feet sometimes but I’m certain it’s a total accident so I just keep showing her love until she starts to love me back.


It’s been real hot lately and I have what Moooom calls “lovely fur” all over me so I feel really, really hot when I’m in the backyard watching the neighbors push machines around their yards. Moooom says I’m supposed to be outside doing something called “my business” but since I have no idea what that is I usually just go out there and lay in the grass, chase the fat buzzing thing with wings that flies out of the hole under the house, tip my head at the other humans getting in and out of those loud things called cars and finding a new way to twist myself around Plaything Two’s table. ‘

When I get twisted around the table and cry Mooom gives me extra attention and says things like “Oh. You poor thing. How long have you been like this?” And then she pets me and hugs me and lets me kiss her face without saying things like: “Ew. I know where that tongue has been. Don’t you dare lick me.” which is what she normally says when I try to kiss her.


Sometimes when it’s hot outside Plaything One and Plaything Two splash in something they call a kiddie pool. I like to bite at their ankles and toes and listen to them scream as they step out of the pool and then sometimes I stick my head in the pool and slurp out the water.


I like Plaything Two because she feeds me all kinds of yummy treats, even when Moooom tells her to stop it. Mom calls Plaything Two, “Grace,” but I like to just call her Plaything Two. Plaything One is fun because he runs a lot and I try to bite his ankles and his shirts while he runs. Mom calls him “Jonathan” but again, I’m just sticking with Plaything One. He flails his arms wildly, and screams all crazy like while he runs, which is always entertaining to watch.


Well, it’s been a long day of chasing The Beast and chewing up cardboard, bones, paper bags, Plaything Two’s toys, and having some ice cream at Johnny D’s, so I think I’ll take a nap, probably in the middle of the floor again so Moooom can say “What in the world dog? You can’t find a better place to lay?” and I can look at her with that innocent expression I’ve mastered, complete with the head tilt, raised ear and lolling tongue.

To continue this months 10 on 10 blog circle visit Jennifer Blake at Blueberry Hill Images

When I got back from picking up a few groceries one day this week my 11-year old niece let me know that my daughter, who will be four in October, had been placed in time out while I was gone for taking the Lord’s name in vain. My niece didn’t call it that because my niece hasn’t been brought up in the church so she doesn’t know the Christianese my family does, but she felt that my daughter saying “Jesus!” emphatically several times in a row was not appropriate and so she made her sit in time out. My daughter didn’t mind sitting in time out, by the way, but what did send her into a crying fit was when she was told she couldn’t watch any cartoons for the duration of the time-out. Her time-outs are three minutes so it’s not like not watching a cartoon for that duration is the end of the world, but I suppose it’s a big deal when you are almost four.

Now, in my house I have said “Jesus” several times in a row but not as a swear word. I deal with some chronic health issues so I have been known to say the name Jesus when I can’t think what else to pray. And sometimes I even say it emphatically. I thought maybe this is what my daughter was imitating but I didn’t really have time to try to figure it out at that moment because she needed a nap. I thanked my niece, took Little Miss up for her nap, and didn’t think much about it again until that night at bedtime.

We read The Oscar the Grouch book two times and then she told me she’d learned something that day.

I said, “oh? What did you learn?”

“I learned that geez louise is a really bad word,” she said seriously. “It is not good to say.”

I said, “is that what you were saying today with your cousin?”

“Yes,” she said, nodding and looking a bit bewildered by it all.

Though her brother says he heard her and knows she was saying “Jesus” I have a feeling she thought she was saying “geez louise” and never thought she was somehow swearing at the heavens.

I let her know that geez louise isn’t necessarily a polite word but in our house, it isn’t considered a swear word. After that conversation, I felt relieved my daughter hadn’t picked up an offensive way to speak about Jesus and looked forward to the day her articulation is more developed.

It rained all week again, which left the little town I grew up near dealing with some flooding. I live about 40 minutes north now and we escaped any major damage but we were ready for some sunshine and a change of scenery by the weekend so we traveled to a historical site near us called French Azilum.

It’s touted as the place where Marie Antionette was going to live if she had escaped France alive, which, of course, she didn’t, instead losing her head to the guillotine. A group of her servants traveled on ahead, however, eventually settling the land in the area along the river before some of them eventually returned to France and others left the settlement and founded other villages around the county, including the village I grew up in.

One of the main highlights of the site is the Laporte House, which was built in 1836 by John Laporte, a son of one of the original French settlers. The home is original and provides a look at how life was lived in the early days of our country. Mr. Laporte was a US Senator, a state representative, his family name was carried on in the town name of the county seat of our neighboring county, Sullivan County, and apparently, he was also a very tall and large man at 6′ something and 300 some pounds. A tour of the home and where his family would have lived is something that I had never experienced before, despite living in the area my entire life and having visited the site more than once over the years. My mom has told me I did tour the house at least once, as a child, and though I don’t remember that tour, the house did seem vaguely and eerily familiar to me, which I figured was simply because I grew up in and around very old houses.

A Civil War encampment had been set up on the grounds, unrelated to the historical site, and we were being given a tour by the local historian and camp commander when he was called away to a cast iron frying pan throwing contest. Yes, you read right – a cast iron frying pan throwing contest.



We decided this wasn’t something we wanted to miss so we headed to a field to watch women in long dresses toss cast iron pans toward the camp commander to see how far they could throw. I believe the longest toss was about 37 feet and it was a young girl with a wicked pitching arm. Apparently, the tossers normally have their husbands or intended stand out in the field as a “bit of motivation” for their throw. This time they had the local historian instead and luckily he came out unscathed.


I was asked to participate and I declined, a decision I now regret, because, as I told my sister-in-law later in the day, I don’t feel you’ve fully lived until you’ve tossed a cast iron pan at a man in a field. If I’m ever asked to toss a pan again I’ll definitely take them up on the offer.


This week it was all rain, rain, rain and then a little more rain. I thought we would be building an ark soon and indeed some in our area did need to seek higher ground as the water raged around them. Luckily the flooding and damage was minimal and there were no major injuries and only moderate damage to some roads and property.

Thanks to the rain we spent a lot of our time inside watching Netflix and reading (gasp! I know!) books. I also spent the week feeling awful and looking for clues to all my weird health issues, finally deciding that maybe it’s just all that perimenopause stuff I wrote about a couple of weeks ago and to accept it for what it is. In between raindrops and twice in the midst of heavy downpours, I ran with the kids to events in town to take photos for the editor of the local paper (who I happen to be married to) because he and his reporters were covering so many events at one time.

The first night we were treated to a concert by a local band, held inside the library, instead of the planned outdoor venue. The guitar player is also a well-known photographer in our area who I imagine is one of those freaks who has about five different talents. He’s probably a talented photographer, guitar player and then goes home and cooks up amazing dishes and ends his day by painting a portrait of his wife, who is the singer in the band. After the concert,  however, he assured me I have seen his talents and there are only two. As my mom always says, ‘likely story.’


The second night we ran through pouring rain to see a man whose talent is blowing bubbles (it’s as strange as it sounds, but also wonderful for the children) and the third night we ran through the rain to watch two children’s entertainers and musicians, a concert that had to be moved inside the local theater.

When it was Netflix time and I could wrestle the remote from my children, I turned on Somebody Feed Phil (*disclaimer this post is not sponsored by Netflix. Shoot. I could use that income.) If you haven’t seen this show and enjoy travel food shows, it’s worth a look. It features Phil Rosenthal, the writer and co-creator of Everybody Loves Raymond. Not only is he hilarious, but you can also tell he is genuinely fascinated with the food and the people of the country he is visiting. I won’t lie, I binged watch both seasons in the span of a few days and am going back to rewatch the moments I may have missed when I was making dinner or separating the children.

My favorite episodes are the one in Venice because I love the Chef Massimo Bottura, who I first saw in an episode of Chef’s Table (also on Netflix), Dublin (hilarious Irish twins…that’s all I have to say); and Tel Aviv, Israel. I love Phil’s personality and his obvious love for family. He has wild eyes and when he eats he opens his mouth full and wide almost like a toddler He ends each episode with a hilarious, sometimes awkward video call to his elderly parents back in New York City. During one call his mom answered a phone call and he had to wait until she was finished to talk. In another call his mom told him to feed the cameraman.

Netflix also features the original show “I’ll Have What Phil’s Having”, his first foray into this type of show, which ran on PBS. That series was co-produced by his brother Richard Rosenthal, also involved in Somebody Feed Phil.  The presence of Richard opened the door for some hilarious moments, including his parents interrupting a conversation to ask if they could see Richard, who was part of the crew and meant to remain off camera.

I’m hoping there will more seasons of this series, a happier, lighter version of Anthony Bourdain’s Part’s Unkown.

My week ended with this hilarious clip from The Late Late Show with James Corden. I seriously felt every ounce of anxiety and fear James felt as the segment worked up to him jumping 15,000 feet out of a plane with Tom Cruise. It’s something I know I will never, ever do because of my intense fear of heights and flying. The only thing I can compare it to is the overwhelming anxiety I felt when my son begged me to jump off the diving board, into the deep end, at the pool of some acquaintances.

His friends, my friends, and a bunch of people I didn’t know were cheering me on but all I could think was that I was going to sink down and not be able to push myself back up because the deep end was definitely over my head, thanks to my short stature. I did finally jump and I did get back to the surface, but I’m pretty sure I looked like a complete crazy person during the whole process.