great music

ccdI saw this special on PBS about the Nashville music of today and the “Americana”  or “American Roots” movement music. (I think that is what they called it – I heretofore thought of a lot of it as simply indie music.)

Anyway, they featured in the music this band Carolina Chocolate Drops. They are amazing. Have a listen:

pecking order

the pecking order

the pecking order

I chose this bird photo (above) I took this morning because it embodies the phrase “pecking order” to me for some reason.  And the way my mind works, “pecking order” relates to something my friends and I have been talking about in relation to our kids in school.

The pecking order I am referring to doesn’t have to do with kids, but in fact the adults in the equation, the parents.

As someone relatively new to the parenting game of life I really had no awareness for years of parents groups like PTAs, parents’ associations, booster clubs, school Facebook pages, message boards, and so on and so forth.  But now I am acutely aware of them and have been observing them here and there like a  sociology experiment.

When I wasn’t a parent I was told by some that I shouldn’t have an opinion when it comes to things about schools, general parent-based groups, school boards, and so on.  Now that I am a parent (or parent-in-training) I am sometimes told I shouldn’t ask so many questions or have an opinion because I am so new at the game. I could get angry at this, but mostly I am just amused.  But I do know people who move through their childrens’ schools as mute foot soldiers to avoid dealing with these issues. Personally I am wondering how we can learn if we aren’t supposed to ask questions at times.

However, what truly amazes me and those I talk with about this is how groups which can do so much GOOD for a school and for kids can also twist into something almost unpleasant at times where the adults are concerned –  it’s all the things you think we as adults left behind in high school but it’s almost like the behavior patterns are reincarnated at times.  It’s like the lunch room and school yard cliques that once reigned supreme are resurrected.

For me, as someone new to this fray, I find even observing this behavior as distasteful as I did when I was a tween and teen.  It also can be like observing where bullying comes from.  How can we teach children not to be bullies when some adults have still not learned that lesson?

As an adult you are supposed to be able to embrace the spirit of individuality, yet even as adults when we become part of a group, individuality to an extent is quashed.

I want my child to be able to appreciate the differences in others because I simply believe to expand your horizons and grow you need to learn to appreciate the differences in others.  Mind you I am not talking about destructive or dangerous behavior, just embracing a world where everyone is not just a cookie cutter of the person standing next to them. I figure we have enough of that going on already with the cookie cutter developments taking root throughout every community with a spare inch available. Or, just because the houses all look the same it doesn’t mean we have moved to Stepford.

As an adult, I will question something if I don’t understand it or if I think something is wrong. Yet with a lot of these groups we absolutely can’t discuss and question things like adults, but conversely we morph once again into school kids in the lunchroom glomming up into cliques.

No one leads such a perfect life that they should be able to judge another person via snap judgment.  Yet it is human nature that we all have been guilty of that.

DSC_1822But unfortunately this is how kids learn about all sorts of things including how newness and individuality is perceived, and  where bullying comes from.

People are different, and what I have learned in this new aspect of the adult world is that there are a lot of people out there that even as adults expect you to be just like them and don’t know how to deal with individuality.

And I hate to say it, but sometimes I see it more pronounced in school related groups like PTAs and committees for fundraisers and sports boosters and arts boosters and so on. And (again) it’s all the nonsense you think we as adults left behind in high school but it’s almost like the behavior patterns are reincarnated.  The irony is all these people are coming together with the same common goal: the betterment of the lives of kids in school. But since life is cyclical, behavioral patterns can be too I suppose.

There is a definite pecking order, and deviating from the comfort level of some causes drama. One of my friends told me the story of carnival at the school of one of her children. She tells me how she goes all ready in blue jeans and sneakers and a comfy sweater all prepared to help.  She is greeted by a mom Nazi complete with walkie-talkie and a clip board. From what I was told apparently most army generals had nothing on her.

The irony and utter humor was of course I remember that woman from when she was a teen.  She was the girl who always had high drama at every party with her boyfriends.  I can still see her running around either barefoot at a party in tears or being booted from some dark corner in a state of questionable undress.  And there she is today, queen of the PTA with a walkie-talkie and a clipboard.

Some people for whatever reason seem to have a narrow view of life or are utterly rules based. But where are the allowances for grey areas?

I believe  interaction and discussion is the pathway to building stronger relationships and so on.

But what I am discovering is that a lot of those parents in these groups are not only judgmental, they are kind of mean at times. The world is enough of a cruel place so why can’t we just be nicer to each other?

I have friends with children who have special needs.  These are my friends with literally the patience of Job. These are the people whom others always feel the need to tell how to parent and raise their kids.

I know someone else who told me of a Girl Scout or maybe it was a Brownie troop leader.  A little girl wanted desperately to belong to this one particular troop because all her friends were in it.  But this troop leader found the girl’s mother NOCD (“not our class darling”).  Here was this person, an adult, who couldn’t look past the mean girl of it all.  But that is the thing about mean girls that I have discovered: they never quite grow up they just get older.

To a lot of you, this is nothing new.  You have been seeing and dealing with things like this for years.  But again, to me, it is all somewhat a brave new world. Maybe I look at things at times in an over-hopeful or over-simplified manner.  Maybe I ask too many questions or speak out where others are silent.  But how are we to learn if we sanitize everything and can’t discuss much of anything?

But while education in a sense has increased with the ability to choose more or better for our children regardless of public, private, parochial, or charter schools, the one thing that hasn’t changed in a lot of cases are the age-old issues with parents. There are always going to be adults that think they know more than their peer group. It’s just human nature. I accept  that.

And in the midst of it all, I often see these brilliant kernels of hope.  Often the children are kinder than the parents.

Just as we can teach our children, we can learn from them as well.  The world is often not a pretty place, but it is not one without hope and brilliance.

All we are, we are

All we are, we are

And every day is the start of something beautiful

~ Matt Nathanson, lyrics “All we are”






show the humble chicken some love, malvern borough

cluck 1Apparently in Malvern they have room for developments no one wants but not chickens.  Not roosters, but laying hens.

I happen to like chickens.  I don’t have any real ones myself, just the milk glass variety, but my friends and family will tell you how I have to stop and look at them and take their picture if I see them.

As a matter of fact more than one of my old neighbors in Lower Merion Township, in the heart of the Main Line kept chickens.  Never roosters, but laying hens.  Just a couple, not a Perdue Farm’s worth. They caused no problems and all had beautifully constructed pens that were basically fancy-schmancy chicken condos. They were even heated in the winter.

Yet here we are in Chester County and as per the Daily Local, Malvern Borough will contemplate oodles of condos no one wants built ghetto close to everything and everyone, but if you don’t have three acres in the borough you can’t have a chicken?  How does that work exactly?  Are you telling me that in a county where you need two acres per horse you need in Malvern Borough 3 acres for a bird that weighs less than a horse’s tail?

Chickens are cool and there is nothing better than literally farm fresh eggs, so I think this is silly.  Heck I have neighbors now who have chickens.  I never hear them, never see them, never smell them.  Chickens are and should be a non-issue.

cluck2Come on Malvern Borough, if you can let developers into your cute town, why not a couple of chickens? And incidentally, Radnor Township is afraid of chickens too apparently. (Read Radnor Board of Health mulls fowl problem )

Anyway, here’s hoping those new borough people and the mayor can become friends of fowls.  I can see not having them in places like condo developments or trailer parks where people have no yards, but a limited number of chickens well cared for in a back yard? Where is the harm?

Here’s the article:

Don’t be chicken, residents urge Malvern

By   Kendal Gapinski, Daily Local News

Posted:  01/24/14, 4:09 PM EST

MALVERN – A small group of residents are looking to change the borough’s ordinance to allow for families to raise a limited number of chickens for eggs.

Ken Neeld and his family have been working to rewrite the borough’s ordinance to allow for families to own “backyard chickens” to collect eggs. Neeld said after looking at other urban and suburban ordinances that allow for chickens, he and his wife worked to draft an ordinance that would please neighbors while allowing residents to raise the animals.

Neeld said his family first became interested in raising their own chickens for eggs around 2012 after visiting the Malvern Farmers Market and learning more about the benefits of eating local foods. He said that his daughters approached him about possibly raising their own chickens to get eggs instead of relying on mass produced ones.

“We don’t want to promote anything that is not good for the animals or for us,” Neeld said. “We wanted to give it a try.”

According to Borough Manager Sandra Kelley, the zoning ordinance classifies chickens and poultry as livestock. Under that zoning ordinance, there must be three acres for the first chicken, and then 0.1 acres for each additional one. Kelley said she was not aware of any movement to allow chickens to be raised in backyards in the borough.

Neeld said that while some residents may be concerned about noise, the ordinance he is proposing limits the number of chickens, follows the borough’s noise ordinance and does not allow for roosters, which can be loud…..He also noted that chickens eat fleas, ticks and leftover food scraps that can lower the amount of waste in households.

“There’s very little downside to it,” Neeld said.

time and snow


As I sorted birds in the snow photos today I thought of memories entangled with snow.

My earliest snow memories are that of a little girl in a giant snow suit being pulled in a sled by her mother down the middle of a deserted snow-filled street in the Society Hill section of Philadelphia. That was the Christmas Eve snow of 1966. I have another memory of a big snow around 1969.

I remember these snows in particular because the city stood still, covered by a cold white blanket. And as a small child, I remember the still of the city, the blinding bright white light of a winter’s sun on the snow. I remember sledding as a small child around Carpenter’s Hall.

I have mental snap shots of other snow storms as I grew up. When we first moved to the Main Line when I was 11 turning 12 we lived in Gladwyne at first across from Mr. Gwinn. His nickname was “The Squire”. Snow then meant a sleigh pulled by his horses.

Snow then meant sledding down marvelous hills around Rose Glen Road and other places in Gladwyne before hills, fields, and genteel old houses made way for McMansions and way too much infill development.

Snow meant sleigh rides with Mr. Gwinn if there was enough snow. When there was enough snow, Mr. Gwinn’s groom (I think his name was Edward) and he would open the big doors to where the carriages, carts, and sleighs were stored and out would come the sleigh. The horses would get decked out with sleigh bells, and you could literally hear the sounds of sleigh bells through out Gladwyne. It was a truly Currier and Ives moment and such a happy sound. Jingle, jingle, jingle mixed with the sounds of horses hooves on a snowy road. A muffled clop, clop, clop.

My mother who does not have a comfort level with horses recalls a sleigh ride she and another neighbor were invited on where Mr. Gwinn took them out on the sleigh and then stopped at another neighbor’s house and handed them the reins while he ducked inside for a drink to warm himself up while they were outside!

Another snow memory was the big storm of 1996 that dumped over 30 inches on the Philadelphia area. That was a crazy amount of snow that was followed by a lot of rain not so long after. I remember having to dig paths on the driveway just so the dog could have a place to relieve himself. I remember when the rain came so many people getting flooded basements due to the combination of snow, melting snow, and rain. This snow surpassed the winter of 1987, which also had one of those snow walloping storms .

I don’t remember other winters with great distinction until the First Friday in February, 2010. That was the night the first blizzard of 2010 began and also the night my entire life changed.

I had been working on a non-profit event with my friend Sherry and given all the weather reports we cancelled our Friday, February 5th event. My then fiancé and I decided to have a snow night dinner in Ardmore with two other couples.

It had started to snow when we went to Ardmore, and we stopped first at the state store for a bottle of wine. The restaurant was a BYOB. It’s weird what you remember, but I remember of all the weird things that former Eagles coach Dick Vermeil was in the state store doing a wine tasting of his vineyard’s wines.

I remember dinner being nice, and going outside and the snow was coming down fast and furious. There was already a few inches on the ground when we exited the restaurant. What I remember next is the contrast of the quiet whooshy sound of falling snow and my ex fiancé flipping out on me in the parking lot because I opened the car window of his car while he was cleaning snow off the car. Mind you he drove a Mazda, not a Benz.

I remember the lights of Lancaster Avenue and the falling snow and cars sliding all over as we drove home. As we drove home, he screamed at me most of the way home and I remember the combination of all of that being a bit frightening. I also remember a passing thought of “I can’t do this anymore.” I got out of the car in my driveway, and as I shut the car door he took off. It was in that blizzard I was literally abandoned with his dying dog. It was sort of a Lifetime TV moment. Only it was my life and slightly surreal when it happened.

It was an odd and hard thing to have happen, but what do you do? You change the locks and move on. And you honor the last few months of a very old dog’s life. Months later a friend said to me that God had done a lift out. She was so right.

Life goes on and you move forward. Then came December, 2010. My brother in law died on December 22, 2010 of peritoneal mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer of the abdominal lining. He had been diagnosed barely 3 1/2 weeks earlier. My sister was suddenly a young widow with two kids.

In the midst of planning the funeral came the blizzard of December, 2010 that crippled New York City. I remember walking up Park Avenue on the Upper East Side the morning the snow stopped. Instead of being filled with multiple lanes of cars on both sides, the avenue was snow filled, not plowed and people like myself walked in the middle of a temporarily car and bus deserted New York City street. And it was quiet. New York City was silent in the snow.

It was the craziest feeling being able to stroll in the middle of a snow clogged Park Avenue . The weird juxtaposition of knowing you were on one of the busiest streets of one of the most populated cities, yet there I was strolling like it was a country road. I remember looking up at all the snow-laden buildings that create that multi-billion dollar canyon of Park Avenue. The buildings are so large, and humans so small. It’s funny but for a moment I felt like that little child I once was being pulled on a sled by my mother.

It’s now 2014, and it is shaping up to be another very snowy winter. But as the snow storms change and the years pass, my life is so vastly different from those blizzards that framed 2010.

As I looked outside this morning to the frozen landscape with ( to me ) the feel of the tundra (well it was a balmy 2 or 3 degrees this morning for a good while), I thought of snow storms past. Life defining weather moments ……all tied to snow oddly enough. Memories covering a wide spectrum of emotions in different times.

But today I as I took my snowy walk down memory lane, I smiled. I am where I am supposed to be with whom I am supposed to be. At home in the snow, remembering snow storms past and making new memories with my own family.

Life is full of all sorts of experiences. It’s what you do with them I suppose that makes the difference.


ghosts and dust: ann pugh farm


Photo courtesy of Pattye Benson, Community Matters. Taken today. Converted to black and white by me.

Soon these photos will be all that remains.

Ann Pugh Farm : an 18th Century Tredyffrin Township Historic Treasure Lost to Demolition

Sure hope those realtors on both sides of this transaction are enjoying their historic blood money commission…and the pals of these Prudential Fox & Roach / Berkshire Hathaway realtors might not like that opinion but I am entitled to it.

I am not alone in my sentiments. People are horrified.

I understand that the new property owner has property rights, but it doesn’t make it right what is happening here. What is happening is just wrong.

As for Tredyffrin Township the local government? Wow what a bunch of hypocrites, right? Tredyffrin likes to proclaim how historic this township in Chester County is, but what do they actually DO to preserve anything?

You can’t save every old or historic house but to let something like this get turned to dust ?

Just wow. What a sad day.