One Pow-Wow, Two Seasons

pow-wow dancers

Saturday morning of the MCNAA Spring Planting Moon Pow-wow I woke early (as I always do, even on vacation), enjoyed the hotel breakfast, and worked on a beading project I’d brought with me. I never go on a road trip without some beading supplies, as I know I’ll always have some time to work on new creations. It was already humid when I got up and I knew the day was predicted to be just as hot as Friday had been during setup.

Once fed, washed, and dressed, I headed to the Marshfield Fairgrounds to help out at with the final setup of the MCNAA Spring Planting Moon Pow-wow. I arrived a few hours before the gates opened and helped the board members and volunteers that were already there finish setting up the MCNAA booth. The booth usually has three tables, one covered with free, helpful information about various Native American topics and the other two holding MCNAA merchandise such as shirts, patches, and bags. One of the board members was nice enough to say I could set up a little spot on the tables to sell my beaded jewelry and I’ll go into that more in a future blog post about my first experience as a pow-wow vendor.

I set my bag with some beading stuff by one of the chairs in the MCNAA booth and I enjoyed the shade of the canopy as the day quickly warmed up. There was a breeze, but it was still quite hot by the time the event started. In previous years, I have gone out and danced in the heat and the sun, but on that Saturday of the pow-wow I chose to remain in the shade of the booth to assist other MCNAA volunteers with answering questions, selling merchandise, and helping out however I could.

While the heat was too much for me to dance in, there were many dancers that went out into the Circle and danced. I have the utmost respect for them and don’t know how they do it sometimes. I was sweating just sitting in the shade, so I can only imagine how hot it was dancing in the sun in full regalia. (All images courtesy of MCNAA Spring Planting Moon Pow-Wow Page)

Despite the heat, I enjoyed my time volunteering at the MCNAA pow-wow on Saturday and made sure I stayed hydrated. When I wasn’t busy helping people who came up to the booth, I would work on my beading project and also on mending my fringed shawl that I accidentally ripped at a pow-wow the previous year. Overall, I felt it was a wonderful day for the pow-wow and that MCNAA received some nice donations, sold several shirts, and some patches.

We had a special meal that evening to celebrate Harry the Hawk’s birthday and it was nice sitting down with dancers, volunteers, and vendors to discuss various things.

pow-wow meal

The weather prediction for Sunday called for much cooler temperatures with a chance of rain and that prediction arrived quite accurately. While Saturday felt like late summer, the weather Sunday felt like early spring with temperatures in the 50’s, overcast skies, and a cool breeze. I welcomed the change wholeheartedly as it meant I’d be able to dance in the Circle that day without worrying about getting sunburned or becoming overheated.

As the morning was quite chilly and there were fewer attendees expected due to the weather, the grounds were quite deserted when I arrived in the morning. I sat in my car while myself and the other volunteers waited for people to arrive. I busied myself putting the finishing touches on the jewelry display I’d updated for that day (again details will follow later).

Eventually I ventured out of my car to see where I could help MCNAA that day. I asked one of the board members if I could set the booth up and she said yes and that was the first time I’ve set up the entire booth mostly by myself. I was thrilled to do it! I love volunteering because I feel needed, useful, and helpful. Being able to set up the whole booth by putting on the tablecloths, setting out the information, and setting out the merchandise made me feel like I served an important purpose. I may not have set everything out perfectly, but I did my best and was proud of what I accomplished.

MCNAA booth

On Saturday, I was too hot to wear my shawl, but on Sunday it was so much cooler that I kept my lighter shawl around my shoulders and used my heavier shawl as a blanket on my legs. I was happy with the cooler weather though and eager to get out and dance when the drums started. There were far fewer people in attendance that day and not many dancers, but that didn’t keep me out of the Circle. My two favorite dancers, Harry the Hawk and Lee Braveheart were out there dancing and I joined them whenever possible. They were happy to see me in the Circle and their smiles and encouragement always lift my spirit, and my feet!

I danced almost every inter-tribal song that day and found the weather pleasantly cool. I did realize that I was very much out of pow-wow dancing shape and vowed to work on that before the next pow-wow. When I wasn’t dancing, I was at the MCNAA booth helping where I could. Despite the low attendance, I felt it was still a good day and I was invigorated by the dancing.

sneak up dance pow-wow

Sneak up dance featuring my favorite dancers, Harry the Hawk and Lee Braveheart.

The pow-wow wrapped up early when it started to rain and the cooler temperatures made it much less exhausting during take down of the pow-wow. Everything that we had put up Friday had to come down and usually the taking down goes faster than the putting up. It was still a small but determined crew of volunteers doing the work, myself included, and we got things down relatively quickly. I said my good-byes to Harry and Lee and promised them I’d try to make it to the September pow-wow at Plug Pond in Haverhill, MA.

When everything was down and the MCNAA crew was ready to head out, I said goodbye to everyone and enjoyed the hugs and well-wishes. As I drove back to my hotel for the night, I was beaming with joy and my spirit was soaring from the pow-wow atmosphere. For me, nothing compares to volunteering for the MCNAA and being able to dance in the Circle. It is a much needed reminder that I matter in this world and that we can all make a difference, if we’re just willing to make the effort.

Setting Up the MCNAA Spring Planting Moon Pow-Wow

MCNAA Spring Planting Moon Pow-wow

Pow-wow grounds before people start arriving.

When I first started attending the Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness (MCNAA) pow-wows, I had no idea what went on behind the scenes. I just knew that I enjoyed every aspect of being at the pow-wow including being among the people, watching the dancing, listening to the music, sampling the food, and strolling through the vendor booths. I would just go, set up my chair somewhere near the circle, and watch.

Not long after I started attending MCNAA’s pow-wows, I felt compelled to do more. I’d made and brought some baked goods to share with the MCNAA volunteers and dancers, but I hadn’t fully stepped into what would become a very fulfilling volunteer role for me. I was actually reluctant to offer too much help at first because I thought they might wonder why I was being so helpful. An odd thing to think now that I know how much help MCNAA needs and appreciates, but it’s kind of how my mind works.

As the years passed, I went from making baked goods, to helping with a few setup things on the weekend of the pow-wow, to going to the grounds on Friday morning to help set up the area for the pow-wow and then volunteering in the booth during the pow-wow weekend. The main reason I went out to Massachusetts during Memorial Day weekend this year and the past couple years was to help MCNAA as much as possible with the Spring Planting Moon Pow-Wow. I always find it to be a very rewarding experience and as anyone who knows me understands, I love being useful!

To help with setup this year, I headed down to Marshfield, MA from Seabrook, NH in the morning. I knew from previous years that there would be a lot of traffic due to the holiday weekend, especially the further south I went because people were heading down to Cape Cod. As I had nothing pressing holding me in Seabrook, I headed down earlier than necessary to the Marshfield Fairgrounds where the pow-wow was taking place. Even with the slowdowns of traffic I encountered around Boston and as I neared the Cape Cod access, I arrived at the grounds an hour earlier than I was expected to be there.

It was a beautiful, breezy day on that Friday, but quickly becoming rather hot and humid. I’d thoroughly sprayed myself with sunblock to avoid getting burned and was stocked up on water and Gatorade to stay hydrated during the day’s work. I parked my car in the shade at the fairgrounds and finished eating the breakfast sandwich I’d grabbed from Dunkin’ Donuts in Seabrook. The Marshfield Fairgrounds have permanent outbuildings setup for food during the Marshfield Fair and a few larger buildings around, one with a nice little pond and waterfall out front. There’s ample parking at the grounds and the restrooms are quite large and always clean.

MCNAA Spring Planting Moon Pow-wow

Grounds before the circle and canopies are set up.

Although I was there earlier than expected, I was not the first to arrive, as one of the board members who lived nearby was already there. I chatted with him and one of the vendors who always arrives early until the rest of the MCNAA board members arrived with the Uhaul full of pow-wow necessities. In hindsight, I wished I’d gone to help load the Uhaul because I obviously had time and it’s usually only a few people loading it up, most of them MCNAA board members. Perhaps next year I’ll think of that sooner.

This year on the grounds a mother fox had decided to have her babies under one of the outbuildings and there were signs up telling people to keep out. I saw the mother fox once during my time there, but never saw the babies. I love foxes and considered them a good omen and sign of good luck, so I knew it was going to be a great weekend.

fox sign

Setting up for an MCNAA pow-wow requires setting up the canopy the drum groups play under, putting up the dance Circle, assembling the canopies for the MCNAA booth, and making sure the vendors know where to set up when they arrive. Vendors arrive all throughout the day to set up and there’s a master map showing their spots, although many of them have the same spots every year and know where to go.

One of the biggest things to set up is the drum canopy because it’s so long and tall, but myself, a board member, and another volunteer got it set up in record time this year. Although I’ve been helping with setup for a couple of years, I was called a “newbie” a few times this year, which actually made me feel good because this newbie learns her way around pretty fast!

MCNAA Spring Planting Moon Pow-wow

A small but mighty crew of volunteers and board members.

Once the drum canopy was set up, I helped with the dance Circle. There’s always a discussion about how large the Circle should be and it usually goes from too small to too big or vice versa before it’s just right. I just help by carrying stakes or rope because I’m not that great at pounding the wood stakes into the ground. By the time I was done helping with that, the other volunteers and board members already had the MCNAA canopies set up and the folding tables out and in the usual pile until they were needed the next day. I paused to eat some of the lunch wrap I’d bought at the store that morning and drink some Gatorade before looking to see where I was needed next.

I then spent some time trying to help set up the canopy that goes at the main gate to the pow-wow, but we didn’t have much luck because the canopy was on its last legs. After that, I hung around with the board members as more vendors came and we chatted about various things. It was quite hot by that time and I spent some time in the air-conditioned Uhaul enjoying the cool air and shade. Although I was hot, tired, and sweaty, I was happy because I was being useful.

Volunteering my time to help the MCNAA always makes me feel so fulfilled, wanted, and needed. It’s always a rather small crew setting up the pow-wows, despite various requests for volunteers before the events. I come all the way from the Finger Lakes of Upstate New York to help them out for their pow-wows and it’s always well worth the trip. I truly wish more people would come to volunteer with set up and/or during the pow-wows, but I don’t know what the magic spell is to make that happen.

I know that people are busy with this, that, and the other thing, but I also sometimes think that everyone just expects “someone else” to do what needs to be done. I think this because I used to be one of those people. But now that I volunteer regularly for the MCNAA pow-wows and whatever else I can help with, I know that I’ll never think that way again. There is always a need for help and if a shy, semi-introverted girl like myself can put myself out there into unfamiliar territory, so can anyone else. I promise it’s a truly rewarding experience that renews the spirit, energizes the soul, and warms the heart.

If you’re interested in volunteering for the MCNAA (no matter where you live), visit this Volunteer Opportunities page on the MCNAA website. The MCNAA needs grant writers, office volunteers, volunteers for special events, volunteers to serve on the MCNAA fundraising committee, and volunteers to serve on the pow-wow committee. Native and non-Native are welcome to help!

Overflowing Adventures – Driving, Riding, and Walking

Long Wharf compass rose

Casting my shadow over Boston.

My recent trip to New England was everything I’d hoped it would be and more. With so much to do and so much going on in the places I visit, I try to fill my time as much as possible with interesting things. I live a relatively quiet life in Upstate New York most of the time, so filling my road trips to overflowing is always something I enjoy.

I was blessed with beautiful weather driving out to my hotel in Seabrook, New Hampshire on Wednesday. It was cool at my house in New York when I left, but by the time I reached my hotel, it was 90 degrees and humid. It’s not unusual for that to be the case and I was happy just to arrive after a full day of driving. Following a small issue where the first room at the hotel hadn’t been cleaned yet, I was given a nice, clean, recently updated room that was bigger and far more comfortable.

I stayed at the Seabrook Inn and the staff were very friendly and accommodating, especially since I kept somehow rendering the key card to my room useless. I’ve stayed at the Seabrook Inn before and I’ll be staying there again as needed on future trips. They have a nice continental breakfast, they’re in a somewhat secluded location, but still right near plazas filled with everything I need. I spent Wednesday night unwinding a bit from the drive, doing some homework, catching up with friends, and grabbing what I needed from the nearby Wal-Mart.

Thursday I headed into Boston early by catching the commuter rail from Newburyport Station in Massachusetts. Although the train is a bit more expensive than me driving to the nearest T station and taking the subway into Boston, after so much driving, I enjoy just sitting on a train for an hour to get where I want to go. The train started out mostly empty, but by the time we arrived in Boston, I was squished against the window as the seats around me filled up. I still didn’t mind though because while all those people were commuting to work, I was just heading into Boston to enjoy myself.

Once the train arrived at North Station in Boston, everyone rushed off while I took my time. I didn’t want to get in the way of people who had somewhere urgent to be.

North Station Boston

People heading into North Station ahead of me.

I walked leisurely through North Station amid the crowds and patiently waited in line at Dunkin Donuts for some iced coffee to help me wake up since it wasn’t even 8:00 a.m. yet. Iced coffee in hand, I navigated out of the North Station and walked to a little park like area with an overlook of the bridge coming into Boston. Traffic coming in was thicker than traffic going out and I snapped a photo because I like that vantage point.

Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge

Traffic coming into Boston on the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge

I then began my walking journey through Boston as it was a cool, breezy morning and I didn’t feel the need to use the T just yet. I walked through Quincy Market and grabbed a breakfast burrito to eat in the upstairs seating area of the building. There was only one other person sitting up there and she left shortly after I started eating. I enjoy being in Quincy Market that early before it gets so crowded with people you can barely move. At that time in the morning, restaurants and stores are still receiving their early morning deliveries, people are sipping coffee, and the full bustle of Boston hasn’t started yet.

Quincy Hall, Boston, MA

Looking out the windows on the upper level of Quincy Market

Once I finished my breakfast, I headed toward Long Wharf, one of my favorite spots to visit when I venture into Boston. The sunshine and breeze made for a lovely visit and I watched the whale boats and ferries fill with people heading out on the first trips of the day. From Long Wharf, I wandered south along the harbor trail and saw new areas I hadn’t explored yet.

Long Wharf Boston ferry

Ferry coming into Long Wharf.

Long Wharf compass rose

Looking toward Boston at Long Wharf

I discovered some very nice looking apartments/houses/condominiums/town homes, whatever they call them there, along the waterfront and wondered what it would be like to wake up every morning with such a gorgeous view of the harbor. Of course they also had to deal with the constant noise of planes taking off from Logan Airport (although not too loud at that distance) and the boat traffic sounds, but I imagine it’s a minor inconvenience. While I can understand the appeal of living in such a location, I know how much I like having a yard, space of my own, and not having to share walls with people. Certainly doesn’t rule out the possibility of me having a weekend place in the city someday when I’m a famous author though. 😉

Boston harbor condos

Homes with a beautiful view of Boston Harbor.

 

Arch at Rowes Wharf, Boston

Arch at Rowes Wharf, Boston

Boston skyline

Boston skyline view from the end of Rowes Wharf.

I ended up walking all the way down to South Station in Boston without even realizing how far I’d gone. It was just such a beautiful day for a stroll along the harbor! I stopped into South Station and grabbed a muffin for a snack before heading to the nearest T station to make my way to the library. For me, no visit to Boston is complete without a visit to the Boston Library to sit at one of the long tables with their green lamps and convenient plugs to charge my phone. Plus, it’s a nice opportunity to enjoy the quiet and rest my feet for a while.

Bates Hall in Boston Public Library

Bates Hall in Boston Public Library

Once my phone had a better charge and I’d written down some of what had happened that day in the small notebook I always carry in my messenger bag, I headed to the Copley T Station and took the T back north in search of a restaurant I’d visited before. I really liked what I’d gotten there, but I was dismayed upon arriving to discover that they’d changed their menu completely. It was getting close to the time I wanted to get back on the train to return to Newburyport, so I decided to forego lunch until later and get back to North Station.

After getting briefly lost trying to find North Station (getting lost is sort of my thing), I found my way there just in time to board the train back to Newburyport. The train was a bit crowded when we started out, but more and more people got off with each stop and I was able to stretch out a bit and just enjoy the ride. I was very hungry by that point, but had a plan for lunch when I got back to the station, so I knew I’d be okay. Overall, I was very happy with my visit to Boston and suitably tired.

I wasn’t able to make a solo trip into Boston last May when I made this annual road trip, so I was glad to have accomplished it this most recent trip. There was more I’d wanted to see, but I just didn’t have the energy and I know I’ll be able to see it next time. Some people might get tired of Boston after a while living, working, or visiting there, but I don’t see that ever happening for me. It will always have a place in my heart and call me to it for new and interesting adventures.

The Trip That Almost Didn’t Happen

massachusetts-welcome-sign

One of the welcome signs for Massachusetts.

Every May for the past few years, I’ve headed out to Massachusetts on Memorial Day weekend so I can volunteer at and attend the Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness (MCNAA) Spring Planting Moon Pow-wow at the Marshfield Fairgrounds in Marshfield, MA. I love helping out and dancing at the pow-wows and I arrive in New England a few days before the pow-wow to embark on other adventures, such as spending a day in Boston or heading to the beach to enjoy the sights, sounds, and scent of the ocean.

However, with the various problems I’ve had these past few months such as major plumbing repairs and needing a new transmission and clutch in my Matrix, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make my annual Memorial Day trip. Thankfully, through something almost akin to divine intervention, I am actually able to make the trip. Today is finally the day I head out to New England where so many people, places, and events happen that lift my spirit and I’m so excited!

My last road trip to Massachusetts was last August with my girls and we’ll be doing our annual summer vacation out there again this August, but my solo trips are always a different adventure than family trips. These solo trips have been one of the many things that have helped me better understand who I am as I expand my horizons and bravely adventure alone. My first ever trip out to Massachusetts and into Boston in November of 2011 was one of my most memorable experiences and was the start of my New England adventures.

The weather for my trip as predicted now is supposed to be beautiful. There’s a chance of rain on the weekend during the pow-wow, but I’ve danced in the rain before and I can certainly do so again. If you’re in the area of Marshfield, MA, I urge you to come to the pow-wow because it’s always an amazing, educational, and memorable experience. It got a semi introvert like me out dancing in front of people, so it’s obviously capable of great things! You can find information about the pow-wow on the MCNAA website or the MCNAA Facebook event page. If you have the time, we can always use more volunteers too!

As I head out to New England this morning, I’ll probably pinch myself at least once to make sure I’m not dreaming. Even though I’ve made so many of these road trips they’ve become almost second nature, they will never become old to me. Every trip out brings new and unexpected adventures and I revel in every moment of it! After the past few months, I feel like I definitely need and deserve a bit of fun and I’m certain I’ll have much more than a bit!

A Highly Successful Vacation Redo!

My girls standing at Pickering Wharf in Salem, MA

I can honestly say that this most recent vacation with my girls was the best one we’ve had so far. We crammed a lot into it while still finding time to relax and best of all, we had fun! Having spent last year’s vacation in hospitals, Jaycie was eager to do things on this vacation and every day she enthusiastically asked, “What are we doing tomorrow?” She wanted every day filled with something and for a girl who admits that she’s lazy and is proud of that fact, it was an amazing thing to experience!

While the drive out was filled with the usual traffic on 495 the last hour or so, we all had a good time. The girls watched movies on my laptop and I listened to my music up front. We stopped plenty of times for leg stretches and snacks and I didn’t worry about being stuck in traffic because we were in no rush.

We arrived at the Best Western Merrimack Valley in Haverhill, MA a little after 5 p.m. and I was immediately impressed by the cleanliness of the facility and the friendliness of the staff. Our room was on the third floor and I was pleasantly surprised to find that we had our own private balcony with a sliding glass door leading out to it. Being on the top floor, the room had high, upward slanting ceilings and was very spacious. We had two queen beds and they were very comfortable with clean bedding. The room felt very homey and welcoming and I knew we’d be happy there.

Shortly after unpacking the car, the girls and I headed down the road to the 99 Restaurant. We don’t have 99’s where we live in New York, so it’s a treat going to one in New England. Although the restaurant was a little busy for a Wednesday night, we had a great waitress and got our food relatively quickly. The food was delicious and the girls devoured their food, while I took half of mine back to the hotel to eat later. It was a great first evening on our vacation.

The next morning, we headed into Newburyport for the Newburyport Whale Watch. This was what Jaycie had been most excited about and her excitement continued for the entire cruise. She loves boats and being out on the ocean and she was smiling, animated, and happy the entire time. We saw a large pod of dolphins, a sunfish called a mola mola, a couple minke whales, and a humpback whale. At one point, Jaycie was walking back and forth through the lower level of the boat checking one side and the other for whales as the narrator of the tour suggested. She’s spent most of the summer relaxing on the couch or outside swinging so watching her be so animated was almost like seeing a different child. Jordan enjoyed herself too, but was a bit more reserved in a typical 15-year-old fashion. She’d go up on the upper levels of the boat or sit inside reading the book she brought along.

We ate lunch on the boat and weren’t quite ready for dinner yet so we headed into Amesbury, MA to Friendly’s for some ice cream. Ice cream after several hours in the sun on a boat was just what we needed and we decided to just have dinner back at the hotel after picking up some groceries.

On Friday, we headed into Salem, MA because the girls had never been there. I’ve visited twice before, once in October and once in the summer, so I knew my way around pretty well. We walked the streets a bit and I took the girls to the Salem Witch Memorial and around the graveyard a little. We then ate lunch in Red’s Sandwich Shop, which was delicious! Jordan and I brought over half of our lunches with us and they were worth carrying around Salem for a bit before we returned to the car. We visited the Peabody Essex Museum just for the gift shop and to enjoy the air conditioning and then decided it was time to head back to the hotel. We ended up back at the hotel most evenings by 5 p.m. and that was fine with all of us because we were tired.

Saturday, we headed into Boston via the Oak Grove T Station and we got in shortly before lunch. Comic Con Boston was going on so we headed toward the Convention Center just to people watch. On the way there we stopped at South Station for lunch in the food court area because we could all get what we wanted and it was nice and air conditioned! We eventually reached where Comic Con was happening and sat down outside to watch people coming and going. It was fun seeing all the people dressed in costumes and trying to guess what some of them were. Jaycie didn’t quite understand why Jordan and I were so excited seeing people in costumes, but she was a trooper and made the walk for us.

After that we headed back to South Station and then took the necessary subway lines back to where we’d parked the car at Oak Grove. It was a good day to be in Boston because there had been some clouds and a nice breeze, but we were all hot and tired nonetheless. I showered once we got back to the hotel to wash the T humidity off of me and we just relaxed for the evening again.

I’d determined Sunday would be our day of not doing anything and that’s indeed what it turned out to be. We hung out at the hotel for most of the day then drove to a nearby town in New Hampshire to get Popeye’s and Long John Silver’s for dinner. We don’t have either of those chains near us so again, it was a treat for us. I got my beloved hush puppies from Long John’s while the girls got chicken and biscuits and we all ate happily back at the hotel.

Monday, we headed up to Portsmouth, NH for a bit and then drove the short ways up to Nubble Lighthouse in Maine. There’s not enough parking at the lighthouse for the endless stream of cars coming in so we ended up parking at the ice cream place up the road and walking down to the lighthouse area for a bit. We then walked back up the hill and enjoyed ridiculous large “kiddie” size ice cream dishes as a reward for our exercise.

The highlight of Tuesday was heading to Hampton Beach State Park in New Hampshire in the afternoon. The girls had a ball walking and splashing in the waves and as they both said that was their favorite part of the trip, we’ll be spending more time at the beach next summer. Actually, when I asked Jaycie what her favorite part of the day was at the end of the day she’d always say getting whatever toy I happened to buy her. When I asked Jordan what her favorite part was, she’d say not being in a hospital. So having both girls agree that the beach was the best part was quite impressive.

Although the hotel was nice, clean, conveniently located, and had a lovely indoor pool that Jaycie enjoyed, we all three agreed that next year we’re going to rent a cottage on Plum Island, MA again. It’s just nice staying in a home where I can make dinner and we can just hang out and enjoy our surroundings. I’m going to try and reserve the cottage I stayed in our first week long vacation in New England because it was on Plum Island sound and I loved watching the various birds fly overhead every morning and see the tide come in and out from the sound. As I have a whole year to save up for next summer’s trip, I know I won’t have to type my fingers off the last couple months before the trip and I won’t feel quite so pressured. Next summer sounds like a long way away considering this summer isn’t over yet, but I know it will be here sooner than we expect!

The Great New England Vacation Redo!

Humpback whale tail. Image by Newburyport Whale Watch

Humpback whale tail. Image by Newburyport Whale Watch

Every summer I take my girls on vacation to New England. This year marks our fifth year of this annual tradition. Although we’ve visited the areas of eastern Massachusetts and southeastern New Hampshire many times, there’s always something new to see and we always have interesting adventures.

Unfortunately, last year’s “adventures” were a bit more than I bargained for as Jaycie had a bout of appendicitis that had her spending almost the entire New England vacation in the hospital. She received the best care in the two hospitals she stayed in and she doesn’t remember much of the ordeal thankfully, but her older sister and I still remember. Jaycie had her appendix removed last fall and has been healthy and happy ever since, much to my relief and delight. She’s feeling perfectly fine this year as we prepare for our trip and we’re all looking forward to making new memories. 

There’s one particular memory I wish to erase from last year.  During the ultrasound in the hospital that was very painful and uncomfortable for Jaycie, she told the nurse that we were going on a whale watch later in the week. The nurse and I both knew that wasn’t going to happen and that moment broke a little crack in my heart because she wouldn’t be able to do the thing she so wanted to do. None of us really got to do what we’d wanted or planned and it was difficult for us, but I know that all that really matters is that Jaycie was properly cared for and eventually recovered.

To help undo the unpleasantness of last year’s trip, one of the first things we’re doing is going on the Newburyport Whale Watch. Jaycie loves boats so she’ll be happy even if we don’t see any whales. Being out on that boat will replace a bad memory with a good one and I’m sure everything that happens on vacation will continue to erase last year’s memories.

We’re staying in an area of Massachusetts I’ve never stayed in before but it’s close to a T station and a short drive to the coastal areas I’m familiar with. Although we were in Boston last year while Jaycie was in Boston Children’s Hospital, our visit there obviously wasn’t the fun time we’d hoped for. So our return to Boston this year will be infinitely better. We’ll make it into Salem, MA this time and wherever else we feel like venturing. 

It means so much to me as a mother to spend a full week with my daughters and I know this year’s trip will be another amazing vacation for the triumphant trio!

Massachusetts Adventures with my Oldest Daughter

birthday brownie by JulieAnn Corbin

Jordan with her flaming birthday brownie on her birthday.

My oldest daughter Jordan turned 14 on August 8th and the week following her birthday was one none of us will ever forget.

My two daughters and I left on our vacation to Massachusetts the day after Jordan’s birthday and the day after that, her younger sister Jaycie was admitted to Beverly Hospital in MA with severe stomach pain. Everything that happened with Jaycie and her eventual diagnosis of appendicitis overshadowed what was supposed to be a fun family vacation, but my oldest daughter Jordan handled it all with a maturity, calmness and strength that made me extremely proud.

When Jordan and I left Beverly Hospital Wednesday night, the first thing she did was move stuff around so she could sit in the passenger sit. She always sits in the back with her sister when I have both of them in the car, but now and then when it’s just the two of us, she’ll sit up front with me. I was happy to have her riding “shotgun” especially since it was dark by that point and I don’t have the best night vision. Upon arriving back at the hotel, we walked next door to the Sonic and got a rather late dinner. We’d never been to a Sonic before and perhaps it was just the circumstances, but the food tasted soooo good after such a long day!

Jordan remained my loyal copilot for the remainder of our travels while Jaycie was in the hospital receiving treatment. As I don’t have the best sense of direction, it was Jordan who kept us from getting lost in first Beverly Hospital and then Boston Children’s Hospital. She was great company to me and always managed to help keep things light even while I was worried about and taking care of Jaycie in the hospital. Jordan tried to cheer up her sister as best she could, but for the first few days, Jaycie was in too much pain and discomfort for anything aside from TV to make her happy.

Jordan helped me pick out the purple striped cat from the Beverly Hospital gift shop that we gave to Jaycie as a get well gift. Jaycie clung to that stuffed cat quite a bit during her hospital stays. Jaycie loves dressing her stuffed animals up in doll clothes so I asked her if she wanted Jordan and I to find it a shirt to wear. She said yes, so Thursday night Jordan and I headed to a nearby Target after leaving the hospital.

It was after 9 p.m. when we arrived at Target and we were both a bit punchy, looped and tired. Even so, we managed to navigate through the large Target store, find some onesies for the stuffed cat and buy a few groceries we needed. My original plan had been to buy groceries at Market Basket the day after our arrival, but as we didn’t end up spending much time at the hotel room making meals, that didn’t happen. Target had everything we needed, including the Captain America Civil War action figure set and small Transformer toy we gave Jaycie the next day. Although it was not at all what I’d planned or intended Jordan and I had some great laughs trying to navigate Target late at night.

During this whole time, the Summer Olympics were happening in Rio so every night when Jordan and I returned to the hotel room, we’d watch an hour or so of Olympic coverage. Unfortunately, they mostly just showed things that didn’t interest us like swimming and track and field, but at least we got to see some of the Olympics. Watching the games was a good way to wind down after a stressful day at the hospital with Jaycie. Jordan only slept in the room’s sofa bed the first night when her sister was there with her. After that, she slept in the queen size bed with me. I haven’t slept with Jordan in my bed since she was a baby and I’m used to sleeping alone but she and I managed not to kick or roll over onto each other during the night.

While Jaycie was at Beverly Hospital, Jordan and I would leave the room every couple hours to stretch our legs and/or get food and drinks. Beverly was a very nice hospital with plenty of places to sit and view the landscaping and ample vending machines to grab snacks from. We went to the cafeteria for lunch or dinner a couple times and they had a great selection of food. We usually got whatever soup they had for the day and I was nice enough to eat the floating cooked onions off the top of Jordan’s soup during one lunch visit. The temperatures outside were quite hot but we got our daily dose of fresh air by going out the front hospital doors and sitting on the benches for a couple minutes until we couldn’t stand it anymore. One night when we left the hospital it was so humid there was moisture on the inside and outside of my windows, which made the drive back to the hotel trickier than usual.

The girls and I have taken many trips into Boston over the past few years so the city wasn’t new to Jordan when she and I had to start traveling their daily to be with Jaycie at Boston Children’s Hospital. What was new though was the amount of time and station navigation required to take the T to the hospital. I didn’t even venture into a city until I was years older than Jordan and I probably would have been overwhelmed at 14, but Jordan handled it quite well and we stuck together through it all. There were a few cooler days during our week in MA but most of the time it was summer heat and that meant dealing with sticky, hot subway stations. Jordan is prone to blisters on her feet when she walks a lot and while she did get blisters she soldiered on and continued to be my constant companion.

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Jordan resting on a station bench while we wait for the T.

I’m quite sure I would have become permanently lost in BCH were it not for Jordan always pointing me in the right direction. She and I walked outside the hospital for a bit during the one day when the weather cooled off and it felt wonderful to be out in the fresh air. I love Boston and even though the circumstances were light years from ideal, I was happy to be in the city and feel its energetic vibe. I think Jordan is happier in the country where it’s quieter and less hectic, but perhaps someday she’ll change her mind.

Since 2011 when my divorce was finalized and I started rediscovering who I was, I’ve exposed both my girls to much more than I experienced at their age and I think that’s a very good thing. I think it’s important for them to see that there’s so much more to the world than just the small area of New York State they spend most of their time in. Although Jordan may remain in NY for her entire life, Jaycie hopes to live in or near Boston someday and as that’s my goal as well, that’s fine by me!

The adventures with Jordan made me so proud of her and I feel honored that I’m her mother. The path she chooses for her life is entirely up to her but at least during the times I have her, I can open her eyes to the great potential of life.