Enough Said

Enough Said
A sampling of my columns and why the hell is my picture SO big?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

On being a stationery woman (original title)

Big bucket of paper and pencils is gift of lifetime

I needed a pencil.
After a search through the junk drawer I'd usually end up with a whittled yellow # 2 Dixon the length of a toothpick, but not anymore.
I now have, and I am not exaggerating, hundreds of pencils, pens, markers and highlighters in every color known to pigment imagination. They are in a large blue basket I call my Staples stockpile, along with Post-Its, memo, note and legal pads, plus funky erasers and a bottle of Wite-Out, just in case I make a mistake.
How I got this dream-stash is related to the trials and tribulations associated with childbirth during the last century. My own personal office supply closet was presented to me as a Mother's Day gift. Odd gift to honor momhood some might say; I disagree, it was perfect.
When I was 10 I begged my parents for a desk. It was Christmas and that's all I wanted. My older brother said a desk was dumb and my mother and father rolled their eyes and told me it wouldn't fit in my room. I even wrote Santa a letter about wanting a desk.
At 10, a letter to the big guy was kind of babyish by pushing the whole existence thing, but I figured it couldn't hurt. I told God if I got a desk I'd become a nun, and I'm not even Catholic. On Christmas morning when my brother and I entered the living room, there in the glow of the lights was my student's desk with all the drawers full of paper, pads, pencils and pens, plus drawing supplies and a Jon Gnagy art set.
For those too young to know who Jon Gnagy was, what Guy Fieri is to "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" on the Food Network, Jon Gnagy was to the art world on television in the 1950s and '60s. The desk was great, exactly what I wanted, but in it was what my little girl dreams (of being an artist and a writer) were all about.
What I remember most about my desk is the smell of paper and pine. My mother and father found the perfect spot to place it in my bedroom. I'd like to say the time I spent at my desk helped me excel in schoolwork but that would be far from the truth. What the hours I spent sitting there did was instigate the idea that imagination is real. That time afforded me possibility, the perfect currency for a child and legacy for an adult.
Recently my daughters and I attended a fundraiser where baskets filled with goodies such as sand toys and rare wines were raffled off. With a handful of tickets, I was immediately drawn to a basket the size of a VW Beetle that held every stationery supply imaginable. Every single one of my tickets went toward that prize, which apparently a lot of other people wanted, too. I didn't win the basket. While my kids went home with lots of loot, I went home with good intentions.
My daughters later told me that it was on that day of raffle loss, the idea of my Mother's Day gift was born. Cheerio necklaces, homemade cards accompanying burnt toast and orange juice for breakfast in bed, have been well worth the many hours of labor, weeks of worry and years of parental angst because now I have enough stationery supplies to last, if not what's left of my lifetime, certainly theirs.
My birthday is next fall. I'm trying to think of something I really want, won't get and that the kids might give me as a gift. Can children buy their parents retirement? Enough said.
Published 06/20/2013 12:00 AM
Updated 06/17/2013 01:05 PM

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Boomers and Boomerangers, (original title)

Enough empty rooms for kids to boomerang home again
Published 05/23/2013 12 AM

Just before my nephews graduated from college my sister and brother law decided to downsize. As if I knew what I was talking about, I advised, buy a one-bedroom condo with a couch that doesn’t open up. I was clueless. The underlying truth, once they’re gone they’re gone, is a truism a little like the tide, it always goes out and back in; bringing a lot of stuff with it, too.

My daughters were in grade-school when I made my little know-it-all comment. What I didn’t know then is that as the fabric of the world economy unravels so goes the safety-pinning of the family dynamic at home. Our two daughters graduated from college, moved out, became gainfully employed, completed post graduate educations, got married and have waded knee-deep back to our shore. Why did they boomerang home, because they wanted to and had to; thankfully we still had enough empty bed rooms.

When both girls were out of the house and on their own, empty nest - the overused term to describe the angst parents feel when their prodigy heads out - was not a negative but a very joyous positive. The house stayed clean and my husband could use the bathroom with the door open.  The quiet of our home was soothing at first until I figured there must be more to life than evenings filled with the symphony of my husband’s snoring during “Wheel of Fortune.” Did I miss my children? Yes. Did I love our empty nest? Absolutely. But taking control of the remote while hubby dozes on the couch should not be the daily highlight.

Redecorating their bedrooms with a look somewhere between Holiday Inn Express and Hilton was liberating; I showed them off to anyone who wanted to trudge upstairs and look. They’ll be back, some said. I thought, “Oh no they won’t,” but knew, they might.

We have a mother-in-law’s apartment attached to our home. When she passed away, at the age of 93, the apartment sat empty until it made sense for our oldest daughter and her husband to move in and save money. It’s wonderful having them as neighbors and, from the beginning, it never felt like they boomeranged because the apartment is totally separate and they pay rent. Here’s where it gets interesting.

Living a state away, our youngest daughter and her fiancé missed family. Even though each had good jobs our daughter decided she wanted to switch gears and become a teacher, which meant more education. Knowing how disenfranchised she felt within her career, I thought her new choice a wise one. Back to school meant back to family. So our daughter and now son-in-law, live in the Comfort Inn upstairs, one room is a bedroom and one a living room; they pay rent and I’m the innkeeper, with no linen service provided.

Once the house filled up with our family of four, plus a couple of son-in-laws and another dog, I thought I’d feel put-upon, inconvenienced and out-of-sorts.  I thought my life would change, but it hasn’t, except that the house looks very lived-in and my husband once again closes the bathroom door.

The hardest adjustment for all hasn't been that privacy has been compromised, because it hasn’t; it’s how hard it is for adult children to share the parent’s beach blanket once they’ve had their own to sit on. Everyone is employed so it isn’t a failure and dependency kind of thing; it’s a temporary new kind of normal the likes of which past generations have enjoyed as multi-generational living for years. So far it’s working for us. The only problem is our youngest can’t wait until her sister and husband move out of the apartment so they can move next door. When that happens, I’m redecorating. My husband and I will each have an office; no couches will open up. Enough said.

Carolynn serves continental breakfast only at her home in Westbrook. Email Carolynn Pianta at

Published in The Times newspaper, a division of The Day in New London, Connecticut

Idling away a spring day on a back yard hammock

Published 06/06/2013 12:00 AM
Updated 06/03/2013 04:33 PM
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I spent last weekend - yes, both Saturday and Sunday - yanking dandelions from their warm mulchy little bassinets. The yellow baby-caps were actually quite cute and together with some weedy little white flower-thingies they looked like someone had planted them in the bed of 2-year-old pine chips under my front windows.
I like dandelions in the spring, they speak of out with the cold and in with the bugs, except maybe this year. Who knows, the weather has been so crazy that my husband will probably have to replace the mower deck with the plow on the John Deere lawn ornaments, soon.
Years ago a former co-worker once said to me on a Monday morning, around this time of year, "So what did you do all weekend, garden?"
"I hate gardening," I said, "and why would you assume I like it?"
"You look like a gardener."
To him all women on the downslide of middle-age like to garden, bake cookies and share pictures of their grandchildren. As one who looked middle-age in the eye a few years back, I prefer swaying in a hammock, eating cookies and imagining the grandchildren I don't have ... yet - which brings to mind my hammock.
At the end of last weekend's weed-pulling I resurrected from under the back deck the metal piping framework of a hammock stand. Ravaged by rust it was a wasteful shame that it had been sitting in the dirt and forgotten for almost a decade. Scaly with rust, fitting the pieces together was like trying to shove a swollen hand into a tight glove.
Sanding and painting was the cure, but it was Sunday, we were outside enjoying the nice weather, and I wanted to lie on the hammock, not repair it.
The actual rope hammock was rolled up and stored on top of, and sort of behind, the oil tank in the basement. Every couple of years when I noticed it I'd mention to my husband that the cord had probably dry-rotted. So when the pipes didn't go together I didn't have much hope for the ropes.
As I sprayed the rusty pipe ends with the miracle fluid, Liquid Wrench in a can, I figured since that stuff can unstick frozen-bolts, why not act as a lubricant for my hammock pipes. My husband just shook his head and took the can away. That's when I noticed two trees, right off the back deck that were the perfect distance apart for a hammock. Aha!
Getting the hammock from behind the oil tank was an exercise in proclivity. I was hoping the effort would not be nullified by dry rot. Other than covered in sawdust and cobwebs the ropes looked strong and the metal rings, just as shiny as if they were new.
It took my husband 10 minutes between cornhole tosses to rig two bolts to hang my new perch in the back yard. Before he was even finished screwing in the heavy duty hanger-things, I grabbed my, very appropriate because it has the image of a moose woven into it, favorite blanket off the back of the couch and a pillow.
Breezy, peaceful and a gentle sway have a way of melting troubles. I didn't think of work or dandelions or that it was time to start dinner. The sounds of my family pitching horseshoes and tossing cornhole bean bags sounded like a symphony turned down and soothing. Every once in a while as the hammock slowed I'd reach out and tug on a branch of the laurel bush alongside; horizontally waltzing to my family's music again. It was a perfect weekend of hard work and reward.
The next day I posted on Facebook: Hammock: a bed on which to forget troubles and sway to the music of a contemplative mind. I got quite a few "likes." Enough said.