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I am married to a man who has a largish family.  Both of his parents are still alive and my husband is the youngest of three siblings who are all married and have children. He has numerous cousins on his mother’s side of the family and one cousin on his father’s side of the family . Most are married and have kids. And now almost all of the kids have kids as well. OK, that may not be a large family by Reality TV standards, but it’s pretty big for me.

My husband and his family also have lots of friends.  Friends that they have known for 20-40 years. Friends who are now also married and have children and grandchildren.

Every summer my husband and I take the boys to spend a month at my in-laws’ house on Nantucket. This is a wonderfully
glorious time when the kids have time with grandparents, cousins, and friends who are more like family – and lots and lots of beach time of course. For one week of our stay there is a large convergence of friends and family. During the day we go to the beach – occupying a rather large amount of space that gets larger and larger each year as our children grow and spread their wings. At night we rotate amongst the different houses for dinner or cocktails or both – grandparents, parents, and children all together.

I love that my husband has all these amazing friends. They have become my friends too. And their children have become our childrens’ friends. And his family has accepted me (faults and virtues) with open arms.

I chose a beautiful day for my quiet time at the beach

Anyway, I learned something extremely important this summer during our crazy week. By Wednesday I had a meltdown. I was tired from staying up late and my nerves were frayed with all the socializing we’d done.  Other than sleeping, I hadn’t had a moment to myself in over a week. I needed to be by myself. So my wonderful husband took the boys sailing, I have no idea what everyone else did, and I went to the beach by myself.  Of course I wasn’t truly alone because the beach was packed full of people. But I was there with my book, my iPod and no one I knew.

I went back to the house late that afternoon exhausted from a day filled with walking, beach combing, and swimming. But more importantly I went back to family and friends refreshed in spirit.

A day or two later I came upon a new term while reading someone’s blog  – ambivert.

What is an ambivert you ask? Well, an ambivert is someone who exhibits the tendencies of both an extrovert and an introvert.

Most people who know me think I am extroverted.  I can be outgoing, friendly, welcoming.  I need to talk through decision making scenarios. I don’t often withhold my opinion. And I have been known to put my foot in my mouth on occasion. Friends in college often described me as a Dr. Seuss book, I was so easy to read.

That being said, I am outgoing, friendly, and welcoming in familiar situations. Put me in a group of friends and family and sure I’m outgoing. Find me at school talking to parents and fellow teachers, of course.  And you will even find me that way at church where I don’t necessarily know everyone, but I feel comfortable.  See, that is the key. I am outgoing when I am in a comfortable environment.

I’m terribly awkward in situations where I don’t know people. In college, I was the one in the group who hated off-campus parties or going to bars. I still prefer small gatherings of friends than huge parties. And given the option of staying home with my family or going to a dinner party on a Saturday night – I usually opt for staying home.  It’s not that I’m lazy (OK a little bit lazy). After a week of teaching Kindergarteners, dealing with parents at school, helping my boys with homework, shuttling them to different activities, and just being their mom I need time away from people.

Having time to myself is crucial to my sanity. I recharge alone, not with people. This is a fundamental introverted trait. The more I read about introverts the more qualities I saw in myself. Here are a few from Marti Olsen Laney’s book The Introvert Advantage:

  • working on projects in large chunks of uninterrupted time
  • rehearsing before speaking
  • anxiety around deadlines
  • zoning out if too much is going on
  • taking time to sort out information
  • dislike overstimulating environments
  • strong reactions to sensory input
  • feeling drained after social situations

All of these describe me. Yet, I like to talk too much to truly be an introvert.

So I am an ambivert.

I am an outgoing jellyfish who requires time alone in her shell.

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Linked to Live and Love…Out Loud Wordless Wednesday

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Linked to Live and Love…Out Loud Wordless Wednesday

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One blustery but sunny afternoon this summer we made plans to go to a small beach that was easily accessible for my in-laws. The boys, my sister-in-law, and I arrived first. Our first warning should have been the ease with which we found a parking space. We hauled all our paraphernalia out onto the beach fighting against the wind that was quite fierce. We figured once we sat next to the beach club fence we’d be OK. No such luck.

The wind was coming from the north and the sand by the water was being blown straight at us. As my son said, it felt like millions of needles being thrown at us. After about 10 seconds of this torture we headed back to the car.

With only a few days left on the island, I was not willing to miss a day at the beach no matter how strong the wind blew. We had to be smart. We decided to go to the south side of the island figuring the dunes would protect us and we’d still be able to sit in the sand and face the water. That’s all I wanted. And to read my book of course.

We went to a public beach – one with a lifeguard and a concession stand. Normally, we avoid the public beaches because of the crowds but on this day there was almost no one at the beach due to the wind.

The four of us had the most amazing day. My sister-in-law took a much needed nap. The boys and I went for a glorious swim watched over by lifeguards.  The kids found a dead shark that had washed ashore.  And the best part was our walk. The boys and I walked on a beach we had never been to before.

Just beyond the public beach but before the beach where those with 4-wheel drive vehicles and oversand permits go was a stretch of beach covered in quahog shells and moon shells. Having never seen so many in one place we gathered as many as we could carry. We thought a jar of moon shells would be pretty. And one can never have too many quahog shells.

Back from our walk I settled into my chair to read Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s (AML) Gift from the Sea. I was feeling her connection to the sea so strongly that day, which isn’t difficult since the ocean fills my soul like no other part of nature. And then I came upon her second chapter, Moon Shell. How appropriate after our discovery. Moon shells remind AML of solitude. She goes on to address the desperate need for quiet and solitude in a busy world – especially for women who are always giving of themselves to others in the day to day requirements of being a wife and mother. Her words are more than relevant 56 years later when so many women work outside of the home as well.

But women need solitude in order to find again the true essence of themselves: that firm strand which will be the indispensable center of a whole web of human relationships. She must find that inner stillness which Charles Morgan describes as “the stilling of the soul within the activities of the mind and body so that it might be still as the axis of a revolving wheel is still (p. 45).”

The quest for quiet and solitude. Oh what joys they are when they are found. How difficult to squeeze them in amongst family life and teaching.

AML goes on to describe how modern conveniences freed up so much of a women’s time, yet eliminated time for contemplation and creativity which feed the soul.

Their very seclusion in the home gave them time alone. Many of their duties were conducive to a quiet contemplative drawing together of the self. They had more creative task to perform. Nothing feeds the center so much as creative work..(p.46).”

While I would never want to wash my clothes by hand and my lack of green thumbs precludes growing my own vegetables, I have found joy in baking my own bread or creating a quilt or scrapbook. Recently I have found writing this blog to be a contemplative and creative outlet. At least I had until this week.

I have started and stopped a bunch of posts this week without publishing one. I have been busy with school and my mind was not on writing but preparing for Thursday when students arrive. I know I need to keep writing. Writing provides time for quiet and contemplation, for clearing my head. I think writing will help keep me focused and centered when the demands of family life, teaching, and the boys’ after school activities take precedence.

Moon shell, who named you? Some intuitive woman I like to think. I shall give you another name-Island shell. I cannot live forever on my island. But I can take you back to my desk in Connecticut. You will sit there and fasten your single eye upon me. You will make me think, with your smooth circles winding inward to the tiny core, of the island I lived on for a few weeks. You will say to me “solitude.” You will remind me that I must try to be alone for part of each year, even a week or a few days; and for part of each day, even for an hour or a few minutes in order to keep my core, my center, my island-quality. You will remind me that unless I keep the island-quality intact somewhere within me, I will have little to give my husband, my children, my friends or the world at large (p. 51-52).

So like AML, I too will keep a moon shell on my desk. There it will sit to remind me of beautiful blustery day with my boys. It will remind me to find quiet and solitude even for a brief moment every day. And it will remind me to make time to write every day.

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Books and 2 videos acquired this summer

This year I only packed three books with me for our trip – the book I was reading when we left, Bill Bryson’s The Mother Tongue and two back-ups just in case I didn’t find something else to read. That makes me laugh. I always seem to acquire quite a collection of books every summer. This year we designated one bag just for the books we knew we’d bring home!

The bag of books weighed 25 pounds!

Once we are on Nantucket I have a variety of sources for good reads. My in-laws’ house has quite a number of bookshelves filled with classics and contemporary novels alike. Family members will leave behind books finished and stacks and stacks are found by all of us at the dump.  The dump!? Yes, the dump. Well, the politically correct name is the Nantucket Environmental Park. A small island, recycling is mandatory – paper, plastic, tin, glass, etc. The whole set-up is a sight to behold.

Recycling paper, plastic, tin, aluminum, etc.

Items still in good shape (good is a relative term here) are taken to the Take It or Leave It shack. You can find books, clothing, toys, bicycles, kayaks, electronics, and anything else people no longer want or need.

Take It or Leave It

There are rules!

This is just one bookshelf

My mother-in-law collects all her winter reading at the dump. Yes, I am serious. The best find this year was a first edition of The Tales of Beedle the Bard which we think was signed by J.K. Rowling – well, it was exciting for the boys.

We also love to visit the Nantucket Atheneum to check out books. Of course we do have to return these books when we’re done reading them. One summer I was deep into an Anne Rivers Siddons novel when it was time for us to leave the island. I really wanted to finish the book (I’d invested over 200 pages already), so I brought the book home with me.  When I was done I mailed it back to the Atheneum and included a few dollars for late fees.

During the first weekend in July the Atheneum sets up a huge tent in their lovely garden for a booksale. I always find a nice collection of titles. I’ve learned to not go overboard since more books will be purchased throughout the summer. I picked up two books for myself, one book for my sister-in-law, and two videos for my classroom (yes, we still have a VHS player).

I also love to spend time visiting my all time favorite bookstore Nantucket Bookworks. Their selection is small but great. You won’t find bargain books, but you will find a phenomenal selection. They also sell lots of lovely trinkets, journals, and bags by Bungalow 360. Over the course of my many visits I added seven books to my collection.

We went from Nantucket to Connecticut to visit my brother-in-law’s family. They are in the process of selling their house and insisted that my older son take home the entire Horatio Hornblower collection. Eleven books. Eleven books of which we already have multiple copies because they were my husband’s favorite books growing up. Eleven books I think we bought our nephews many years ago. Anyway, eleven books take up quite a bit of room.

Our final stop landed the boys and me at my parents’ house in New York. I completely inherited my bookishness from my mother. The only book my father ever read was The Godfather in 1969. What’s even better is that my mother and I share similar tastes in books AND she prefers to buy books rather than borrow them from the library. Normally I bring home a number of her books to read. But I was quickly running out of room in the red bag thanks to my son’s acquisition and a visit to Borders. This year I only borrowed one book and typed up a list of suggestions – about 25 titles. Five more books added to the bag.

Twenty-five pounds of books are pretty heavy. Believe it or not, this pile did not include all of the books my husband collected or the books I bought for the boys at Borders. Oh! And I bought the Harry Potter Film Wizardry book at the Harry Potter Exhibition in NYC.

So I am sending a big, huge, THANK YOU to the lady who checked in our luggage at La Guardia. She designated my bag of books as excess baggage rather than charge us another $20 for a small (but heavy) bag.

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Photographing flowers makes me feel happy.

Their colors are vibrant and varied.

The up-close setting is the only one I have truly used on my camera.

And more importantly, flowers stand still and do not make funny faces or blink!

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Even keeled

My husband and I went sailing last week. We hadn’t sailed alone together in over 12 years. The boat was to come out of the water the next day and the wind was calling him. A perfect day for a sail – the sun was warm and the breeze was cool. Delightful.

Charlie was wondering if he could ready the boat and sail it all by himself and I was happy to read my book while he did. The engine wasn’t working so we took off under sail. We quickly zipped through the harbor, checking out the other boats nearby. We passed by Brant Point, waving to the boys as they fished for scup.


We had a good strong wind that day with serious gusts at times. We would heel so far over I was sure that we would capsize. Physically uncomfortable in the heeling boat – either too high in the air or way too close to the water – my nerves and anxiety sent out huge warning signals to me. In my head I heard DANGER WILL ROBINSON! but I did not say anything to Charlie. And then just when I was convinced we had no where to go but over, my husband released the sheets adjusting the mainsail. We were balanced again.

My husband has been sailing for most of his life.  I trust his knowledge and experience. I trust him to keep me safe. Rationally I know he will not capsize the boat even when my fear is overwhelming me – all will be well in a few seconds. I know we are fine because even though I am outside of my comfort zone and freaking out in my head, Charlie is as cool as a cucumber.

Despite the gusty winds that terrified me, Charlie always had complete control of the boat. He sails with the precision and synchronicity of Fred effortlessly gliding Ginger across the ballroom floor. With tiller in hand, he watches the wind in the sails making precise adjustments exactly when needed – his joy is almost palpable.

As we brought the boat back to the mooring I was exhilarated. It had been a spectacular day of sailing – gorgeous weather, time alone with my husband, a tiny bit of adventure, and most importantly I had grown a little braver. I can be a timid creature of habit who doesn’t often venture beyond my comfort zones. Fortunately, I married a man who gently nudges me to places of discomfort and then brings me back to an even keel.

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