News, schools, and views from a uniquely Lowell perspective

Four days, three bike rides

You may have noticed me trucking around Lowell with two bikes strapped to the back of my car, parallel parking downtown, getting gas etc. (Yes, I am that nutcase.) Those bikes have travelled with me for days: to the grocery store, to the Y, and on various errands and family gatherings, including a trip to Haverhill Saturday night to see the fireworks. In the span of a very hot, four-day weekend, we managed to ride the Freeman Bike Trail on three separate occasions. I completely understand how Lt. Governor Murray ended up with heat exhaustion as we paused to watch Chelmsford’s parade Monday morning (Murray was there) before quickly walking our bikes across the street to continue on the trail. Those few minutes of watching the parade as they announced the dignitaries nearly did me in; the sun was so hot on Main Street. But the trail was cool and shaded with trees, and the breeze from biking made the path surprisingly enjoyable despite the steamy weather. As we headed back across Chelmsford Center at noon, two hours later, the parade was still going on and I noted an outdoor thermostat registered the temperature at 96 degrees! It certainly didn’t feel that hot on the path. As a lifelong biker who is afraid of cars, I am thrilled with plans to extend the Freeman Trail all the way to Framingham. In fact, I’d like to see it extend further into downtown Lowell and connect with paths along the river, so that urban biking gets a lift. An article in Today’s Globe notes that Boston will get $3 million in federal funds to expand its bike paths and create a bike-sharing program. (Wouldn’t that be great for Lowell too?) It’s been days since my last ride and even with the threat of rain, I’m loathe to take the bikes off my car in case we get another chance to go out on the trail…

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Family in television ads

We have triplet nieces in California who have become quite the hit in television ads (picture three tow-headed four-year olds).  You may have seen them last year being pulled in a wagon together for a Dunkin Donuts commercial that aired during the Super Bowl and President Obama’s state of the union address.  Last fall, they appeared in raincoats and umbrellas for H+R Block ads. Their latest venture is a series of story ads currently airing about a family who loves their Toyota Sienna (“modern, stylish, super good looking—like us”). The ads appear regularly on television, but also can be seen on youtube.  Check out the Meet the Parents,  Daddy Like Help, and Daddy Like Bonding Time and see if you can tell the difference: The girls appear individually, each playing the same role as the daughter in the family. Despite requiring a grueling time commitment—sometimes hours of shooting over several days—the girls apparently love the spotlight, and can’t wait until it’s their turn to be in front of the camera. The money, of course, will come in handy for the girls’ college tuition, but the ads themselves—a series of funny short stories about a narcissitic couple obsessively in love with themselves and their car—are creative in their own right.

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What’s with the weather?

I get regular emails from the folks at the Observatory on top of Mt. Washington; usually, it’s rather comforting to hear about their horrendous wind speeds, devastating wind chill factors and enormous piles of snow (rather like listening to the traffic reports when you don’t have to go anywhere). This year, however, things are pretty dull up there, as just like us, they watch enviously while Pennsylvania, DC, and points south get dumped on (well, I like to ski, so I’m envious). So far this year, the Mountain has seen below average snowfall, but in an attempt to raise staff morale, it was pointed out that in April of 1988, they got over 100 inches of snow. Here’s hoping!

To live vicariously at the top of Mount Washington (“the world’s worst weather” is proudly proclaimed), check out their site, where you can read about the experiences of the summit volunteers, and see some gorgeous, otherworldly pictures.

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Not motivated to please

We were driving back from the mountains last week, listening to the John Tesh radio show, when he discussed the results of a study that has lingered with me. The study was to determine who was smarter–cats or dogs. Based on a comparison of brain size to body size, cats had bigger brains. Also, when comparing neurological activity in the brains, according to Tesh, cats had almost three times more neuron activity in their brains than dogs did. But despite these factors, Tesh explained, cats were considered far less malleable than dogs; thus, their resistance to obeying even simple commands (not because they don’t know what you want). Dogs apparently have an intuit sensitivity and connection to humans, and they care about the relationship, while cats are simply not motivated to please. This does not surprise me as I think of all the times my cat has ignored my calls to cuddle, so that it feels like a gift when he chooses to sit with me finally. Dogs, on the other hand, are thrilled simply to be near their human friends–part of their pack instinct, most likely, whereas cats are loners. Either way, it feels a lot like rejection (the middle paw in your face kind) and it’s motivating me to consider switching species.

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My favorite cards

Except for last year, I have been a consistent card sender during the holidays. Typically, my husband and I make the card together: (I’m concept and words, he’s illustrations.) I cook because I love to eat, and I send cards because I love receiving them. Instead of bills, my mail these days is full of cards and best wishes from friends and family. This year I got two cards with text that I especially enjoyed. The first one is from Barbara Lee, an art philanthropist and supporter of women in politics. The words follow:

“A snowflake is one of the most fragile creations. But look what they do when they stick together. Wishing you warmth, light, and happiness this holiday season and throughout the year.”

The second card is from Bob Gagnon, a local plumber. Here are the words to Bob’s card:

“Dashing through the snow,

In a one man Plumbing truck.

O’er the road he goes,

Hope he don’t get stuck.

Our pipes are leaking bad,

Our Boilers cold it’s sad,

When Bob gets here he’ll fix it up,

And then we’ll all be glad.

Oh! Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells,

The heat is on its way.

The plumbing’s fixed; the pipes don’t leak,

Now it’s Bob we have to pay!

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A Republican birthday card

The following text accompanied the card sent to my husband by his brother on the West Coast. I hope you find it as funny as we did:

(Imagine a drawing of an empty cake platter.) The Democrats took your birthday cake!

(Open card.) They sliced it up and gave it to people who aren’t fortunate enough to have a birthday today.

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Naughty Readings tomorrow night

If you’re in the mood for some sexy laughs tomorrow night (Sat. 11/14), join the Image Theater, Lowell’s local performing arts group, for its fifth annual, not-for-kids laugh-fest. The naughty songs and skits will be performed upstairs at the Old Court, 29 Central Street, beginning at 8 p.m. I’ve attended all these events and, believe me, they’re fun; although the humor is not kid-friendly, it’s definitely not too naughty for me—a somewhat prudish, Catholic-raised girl. The most important thing is that you will laugh often, and who couldn’t use a few laughs these days! At the same time, you’ll be supporting the efforts of local theater in our community. In its five years of existence, the Image Theater has produced the new works of more than 60 playwrights, as well as highlighting local talent and offering enjoyable theater. Seating is limited, so reserve a $25 ticket by calling 978-441-0102, or take your chances and pay $28 at the door.

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Republican bumper stickers

My family is full of sarcastic wise guys, particularly regarding political issues where we engage in loud, passionate disagreement that we don’t take personally. In that spirit, I share the following bumper stickers sent to me by my brother-in-law who is like a brother to me:

  1. I’m REPUBLICAN, because we can’t all be on welfare
  2. Don’t spread my wealth…spread my work ethic!
  3. White, Straight Republican Male (How else can I piss you off today?)
  4. You Think Health Care Is Expensive Now? Just Wait Till It’s FREE!
  5. Why in the Hell should I have to press “1” for English?
  6. REPUBLICANS: We work hard, so you don’t have to
  7. So…how’s that whole “hopey-changey” thing working out for ya?
  8. Annoy a Liberal. Help yourself.
  9. Why should I pay for your health care?
  10. Trickle Up Poverty

It’s sad, really. (How people I love and respect can be so misguided politically…)

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    I took the summer off

    I know. I haven’t been blogging. There is a difference between my living life and my writing life, and although I probably create posts/stories in my mind daily, I have not taken the time this summer to put fingers to keypad and share those thoughts with the universe. We needed some quality family time this summer and we took it—with out-of-state destination weddings, family reunions, and weeks and weeks at the beach. We celebrated our health, the blessings of each other, and sunshine wherever we found it. But that’s over now. School starts next week, the campaign trail is heating up, and I’m back! So, dear readers, if you are still there (or not), I am writing again.

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    Some “favorite things” about aging

    To commemorate her 69th birthday, actress/vocalist Julie Andrews made a special appearance at Manhattan’s Radio City Music Hall to benefit the AARP where she performed a new version of “My Favorite Things” from the legendary film The Sound of Music.  Thanks to an email from my sister-in-law, below are the updated lyrics:

    Maalox and nose drops and needles for knitting,
    Walkers and handrails and new dental fittings,
    Bundles of magazines tied up in string,
    These are a few of my favorite things.
    Cadillacs and cataracts, and hearing aids and glasses,
    Polident and Fixodent and false teeth in glasses,
    Pacemakers, golf carts and porches with swings,
    These are a few of my favorite things.
    When the pipes leak, When the bones creak,
    When the knees go bad,
    I simply remember my favorite things,
    And then I don’t feel so bad.

    Hot tea and crumpets and corn pads for bunions,
    No spicy hot food or food cooked with onions,
    Bathrobes and heating pads and hot meals they bring,
    These are a few of my favorite things.
    Back pains, confused brains, and no need for sinnin’,
    Thin bones and fractures and hair that is thinnin’,
    And we won’t mention our short, shrunken frames,
    When we remember our favorite things.
    When the joints ache, When the hips break,
    When the eyes grow dim,
    Then I remember the great life I’ve had,
    And then I don’t feel so bad.

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