Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Today is one of those days that feel full of amazement.

Maybe it's because I was up until 2:30 in the morning last night, so I'm a bit delirious.
Or maybe it's because I woke up to find a beautiful note from a friend in my inbox.
Perhaps it's because of the magnetic force field that caused my computer and my cell phone
to crash simultaneously at work today (my PC has yet to recover;
the iPhone, of course, seems just fine.)

Definitely, it's because of the 6 ridiculously talented people
we just watched play their souls out on stage.

How does such a booming voice
come from such a small lady?
What must it feel like to be so engrossed in your passion that
you can share intimate and inspiring moments with a few
you know well and hundreds that you don't know at all?

I got a glimpse of that feeling sitting next to my husband at the
show tonight, and a crazy to desire to feel it more and more and more.

PS: If you have not yet experienced the voice and music of Brandi Carlile,
please do so immediately.

Monday, October 1, 2012


Reading has always been hard for me. I love books, but it takes me forever to get through them, and soon after the story ends I can't seem to remember any of the details. The names, places, and situations escape me, leaving only the essence of the tale behind. The same, often times, has been true of my day-to-day life.

About 10 years ago, I started keeping a day planner. Rather than fill it up with appointments in advance, I used it to jot down what I did during the day, for fear that I would never remember. I kept the entries brief: the name of the person I'd had dinner with, the name of the book I was reading or the the movie I went to see, the general mood of the day—"cloudy; cranky."

The tradition came to a screeching halt about the time I had my son. After four days of labor, an exhausting surgery, weeks of recovery, and endless feedings, I couldn't bear the thought of keeping track of those days: Couch. Boob. Couch. Boob. Couch. The repetition was maddening, the routine exhausting.

Since then, I've been pondering the age old question: What am I going to be when I grow up? Despite struggling with the topic for 35 years, I thought that by writing about it I would somehow find the answer faster. Not so. In fact, putting it out there has only magnified the pressure I put on myself to find that one true thing.* This year, this summer, I've felt lost.

The September Issue, among the other september issues.
And then September came. "September," I said to a friend, "is my January. I adore it." September marks new beginnings: a new school year, a new season (my favorite!), and the pinnacle of the magazine year. The mother load in the mailbox was more than a girl could ask for to keep busy for the month. But, this September brought with it even more.

On my nightstand, I had amassed a pile of books that I'd back-burnered, borrowed, or bought for myself, and September was my month to power through them. It was a lofty goal for me, but I was determined. And then, just before the first of the month, the postman delivered a special package—a copy of my friend Christina Rosalie's new book, A Field Guide to NOW, and I found myself lost once again. This time by choice.

(en)Light bedtime reading.
Her prose is thick like honey. Every sentence, a treat to savor and enjoy for what it is: a collection of words so sweetly strung together, so honest and true, that to swallow them too soon would be a shame. 

I wanted to be that good friend that devoured the book in one day and reported back about how amazing I thought it was—and how I wasn't sure I would be able to look her husband in the eye at the coffee machine at work anymore, now that I knew so much about him... But I didn't. Truth be told, I couldn't. I would find myself reading a couple of pages and before I knew it, my mind would wander to my own life and the things I dearly value. I pondered the days I felt I'd lost—either from lack of memory or lack of drive—and made a decision to make a change. To focus on living in the moment. 

Mad River, Waitsfield, VT
I ordered a set of the most perfect, pocket-sized notebooks and picked up where my planners had left off two and a half years ago. From there, I committed to engaging in life in a way that would warrant the honor of being written down. I discovered new places to visit just down the road from home. I reveled in Monday night library jaunts and Saturday afternoon dates with my son. I popped over, unannounced, to friends houses and whisked them away on unexpected adventures. I took a step back from the chaos and consternation that comes from building a new house, and watched from afar as my amazing future emerged from a pile of dirt.

Harvest Festival, Shelburne Farms
Thirty days later, I feel just a little bit closer to the world around me. I know that the notes I've kept will help me remember this month for years to come and will help me to create the next great gift (like the one I made for Logan for our second anniversary: capturing the milestones of our life together on custom library card catalog cards housed in an antique wooden recipe box.)

I've yet to finish Christina's book. There's no rush, especially since I'll likely forget the details from it that have so enriched my September days. I've yet to figure out where I and in turn, this blog, are headed. What I do know, is where I am now. I'm on my couch—yes, that very same couch—sitting next to my husband, writing what I know and what I care about. My guess is that everyone involved is just fine with that.

*Spoiler alert: There is no one true thing. At least not for me.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


Three years doesn't seem like a long time. Until, of course, you consider everything that's actually happened in that time. 
  • Got married
  • Had a baby
  • Moved to DC
  • Bought land
  • Moved back to VT
  • Got new jobs (granted, at the same company)
  • Started building a new house
  • Dropped son off for the first day of his third year of school (as a Dragonfly)
More than enough to celebrate, wouldn't you say? We thought so. 

One of Hudson's favorite teachers graciously agreed to come to Richmond to hang out with him while we went to dinner at what is undoubtedly one of our favorite restaurants, ever. It did not disappoint—not the food, nor the company.

Love & Deliciousness.
This morning, at 7:15, I had to wake Hudson up to get ready for school. I walked into his room, floor boards creaking, and opened his curtains, letting in the morning sun. He sat up in his crib and rubbed his eyes. The first words out of his mouth were, "Where Trixie go?" That's when I knew that all three Browns had had a pretty awesome night.

Happy anniversary to us.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


My parents raised me to be humble. Selective. And, discreet. If things were going well, we didn't need to brag. And if they weren't, it was nobody's business but ours.

I remember as a kid asking why, since my parents are pretty religious, we didn't go to church on Sundays. My mother always replied, "Church is for the neighbors to know you believe in God. We pray, so God knows we do." It made perfect sense at the time. (Though I always suspected that sending me to catholic school for 13 years was a bit of insurance on their part.)

Our way of life has always been just my style. Modest. Simple to understand. Easy to follow. Until, of course, I started Meandering.

Over the last couple of weeks, I've struggled with deciding the events in my life that would make appropriate posts, and those that, as a Varela, undoubtedly would not. Frustrations with friends and family. Disagreements at home. Struggles at work and at school.

I'll let you guess from the number of recent posts where I landed in most—nay, ALL—cases.

Since we broke ground on May 1, the big hole has been a physical manifestation of the struggle between my public and private self. Every eye in the village trained squarely on the doings at 300 Cochran Road. Every wheel barrow of cement, every 2x4, a glimpse behind the curtain that is our life.

"You know those people walking their dogs or out for a run?" asked a woman that is also in the process of building a house in town. "You know they all sneak in at night to check the place out, right?" I had suspected, but I'd hoped it wasn't true.

So for three months, I've felt out of control and totally exposed.

But then today, things felt different. The siding is nearly done and painting is well under way.  All of the windows are installed, and—best of all—the doors in.

As I walked into what will soon be our mudroom, the house, behind closed doors, was warm and quiet. For the first time since this whole adventure started, the place really felt like home. And while I know, the super curious will still find themselves trying to peer in, I'll keep telling myself that from here on out, whatever happens inside is nobody's business but ours.

The big house
takes shape
with the help of friends.

Sunday, July 15, 2012


As someone who's been obsessed with magazines from a young age, I've read countless articles defining the variety of female body shapes and the clothing and accessories that best match them. Through the years, the labels have evolved slightly but one thing has remained the same: they're always worded in a short, sweet, simple way meant to make every shape sound attractive.

Pear, straight, athletic, curvy... Missing from the list is the one that fits me. You know, the one that's specific, illustrative, and dead-on accurate. Relatively proportional most of the way down, with oddly placed speed bumps on either side of the upper thighs. I'm thinking something like: Python that swallowed a whole cheese wheel and is storing it about three quarters of the way down its throat.

Needless to say, bathing suit season can be a little stressful. But as I packed for our trip last week, I took an unusual tact. I shoved every bathing suit I owned into my duffel bag without trying them on (most of which I hadn't worn since our honeymoon back in 2009) and hoped for the best.

On our first day at the beach, I had an important decision to make that would set the tone for all of Beach Week: sport the trusted Speedo—the Spanx of swimwear—and live with the Sudoku board tan lines later, or blindly throw on a bikini and run out the door. I chose B and never looked back (or down.)

I spent the rest of the week obsessing over the shapes that really matter.

The perfect half moon of Hudson's smile as he learned to ride a tricycle. The giant almonds that were his eyes when he first saw the ocean's waves. The triangles of the swimmies he wore into the pool that so reminded me of the ones I, too, wore as a kid. The star shape of his arms, legs, and head as he launched himself into the pool time and again.
Hudson loses his inhibitions.
At night, he and I would climb up onto a white stool in the room we shared and peek out the round window—reminiscent of a porthole on a ship—to say goodnight to the water, the sun, the clouds, the birds, the crabs. One night, on his own, he said, "Goodnight, boat. Goodnight, man on the boat." And my arms mimicked the shape of the window, hugging him tightly to acknowledge his awesomeness.

The view from our window.
I am so grateful for the time we shared. Watching the sun rise from the beach each morning, and luring crabs with chicken necks off the pier in the evenings. Listening to Grammy Pammy's infamous tales. Hearing about Nic's upcoming book, and the new chapter he, Abby, and Frances will begin this summer in Oxford, Mississippi. Logan, Hudson, and I, getting to spend time together as a family, away from the hustle and bustle of every day life.

Years from now, I won't remember what I wore or how I looked, but the memories of our week together will stay with me forever.*
Polaroid portrait of our little family on the porch.

* I know just the place where there's plenty of room to store them. I hope they like cheese!

Friday, July 6, 2012


For the first time in a long time, I left work the day before vacation without a major project looming over my head. I felt comfortable knowing that I'd prepared as much as I could for being away. And, now fully staffed with a pretty awesome crew, I know that whatever comes up in my absence will be handled and well.

The best part of the day was the time between work and going home to clean, do laundry and pack. We took a detour to the local park for our annual company picnic—or "family cookout" for those that have been scarred by the inaccurate history lesson on the word "picnic" (I'm thinking of you, here, Buddy.)

For three solid hours, Hudson owned the Bouncy Castle like his life depended on it. Having missed the chance to jump his heart out at the Richmond 4th of July celebration (there was no way we were waiting for an hour to have him bounce for 2 minutes on the scalding hot slide), he was in heaven today. He claimed the Castle all to himself.

On the drive home, we told Hudson that tomorrow morning we'd be going on an airplane and that at the end of the trip, we'd be at the beach. "I want to go to the beach!" he yelled. "We're going!" we yelled back.

What seemed like ages away way back in January when we booked our flights, is finally here. 

BEACH WEEK 2012 here we cooooooooooome!

Monday, July 2, 2012


I went to college in a really small town in Pennsylvania. Population: 5,710. The middle of nowhere.

Towne Tavern
There were two bars downtown: the college bar, named after our mascot, and the other bar. The Towne Tavern. While the "e" in the name was added for historical flair, we liked to think of it as commentary on the bar's clientele; it's differentiating factor. Students did not go to the Towne Tavern. The townies did. And we were definitely not townies.

We were sophisticated visitors. Just passing through to get our liberal arts degrees. On our way to something bigger and better.

Fast forward to the present. Hometown, Richmond, VT. Population: 4,500 (at best.) It's definitely safe to say that I'm more than making up for old times lost.

Here in Richmond, it's not uncommon to visit the grocery store two or three times a day, each time running in to at least 10 people we know. The sign reads, "Richmond Market & Beverage" but we all call it the Market. The hardware store, from which most of the materials going in to our new house are sourced, is called "Richmond Home Supply," but everyone calls it Dan's. Why wouldn't we? After all, Dan owns the place.

Our pediatrician lives right across the street and Hudson loves to watch him mow his lawn, work on his house, and go for walks with his wife. "What Docta Parker Doin?" is a question he asks at some point every day, whether we're in the yard, driving to school, or getting ready for bed.

This past weekend alone we watched the American flags go up along Main Street in prep for the upcoming 4th of July celebration; floated down the river in our canoe; went on a family bike ride across the rolling hills of farm country; went down the slides at the playground; enjoyed our Sunday morning ritual of scones and black coffee from the Bakery; kicked some balls around the local soccer-camp fields; and visited with good friends—all without leaving the village. And when tragedy struck here on Saturday afternoon, there wasn't a single one of us that didn't hear, see, feel, or mourn its affects.

Old Round Church
Part of the weekend was also spent looking for inspiration for the front door of our new house. We searched online and read through books featuring the best historic homes and buildings of New England, only to find ourselves directed to our proverbial (and almost literal) back yard.

Sure, on most summer weekends, the adjacent field is full of cars with out-of-state plates. And when the wedding celebration ends, they all—including the bride and groom—go back to where they came from. Do any of them know that we too got married there? That we're on a first name basis with the guy who climbs up into the steeple to ring the church bell for their ceremonies? Do they know that in winter we fly down their "parking lot" on our Mad River Rockets? Probably not. And that's just fine with me.

With the addition of trusses and roof decking this week, the "big hole" on Cochran Road—the project everyone in the village is talking about—has now become the "Big House." Its roots reach far deeper than the basement slab. It is the home in which we hope to share a glass of port with our new family when all is said and done. The place we hope to see our son grow into an honest, mischievous, and caring young man. It is the physical representation of all of the love and adoration I feel for this amazing town.

At breakfast last weekend, my friend Amy and I daydreamed about the variety of up and coming businesses we might attract to our downtown if we just rolled up our sleeves and got to work planning for it. (Full disclosure: to date she's done more than her fair share in this department.)

Maybe, someday soon, we might find ourselves welcoming that new brew pub she and I chatted about. So what if it's only for us townies? I wouldn't really want it any other way.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

House Update #6-18!

Just as I'm feeling like life is literally standing still, I swing by the "big hole" and am shocked by how quickly things are actually flying by.


Thursday, May 17, 2012


It's 11:38pm. My son and husband are sound asleep in their warm, comfy beds. I'm sitting at the dining room table. Working. In a few minutes, I'll shut down, brush my teeth, and collapse under the sheets. Bright and early tomorrow morning, I'll be back at my desk to do it all over again. And I'll still be a month behind.

So I just keep telling myself it'll get better. Because while it seems like work is all there is, I remember there's this:

And this:
Peanut Butter!

The ICFs have arrived!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


OK, so I lied. (Clearly I don't know too much about home building.) The last photo did not, in fact, feature "footers" as indicated, but rather the framing for the footers. Tonight, I redeem myself by sharing an updated photo featuring the actual footers... fully poured and setting nicely!
If I hadn't said anything, would you really have known?

Monday, May 14, 2012


Today, as on most days, I found myself running from one meeting to the next. I was shuffling along, trying not to bump into the man walking in front of me, when I noticed him look left down a short hallway. At first he looked confused, but as I watched him do a double-take, smile and keep walking, I knew exactly what he was doing. The man in question was a colleague. The object of interest down the hall, his wife Sara.

Our company was founded by a young couple, and through the years, many more have followed in their footsteps. Partners, lovers, husbands and wives, each bringing new meaning to the expression "my work is my life."

Several years ago, we were graced with the presence of yet another young couple: Rob and Kasey Bromee. I knew them as one of us. We shared a few meetings here and there, but what I remember most were the reputations that preceded them. As individuals, they were well known around the office as incredibly smart, charismatic, helpful, and dedicated. As a unit they became known as pilars of hope, faith, and courage. Nearly a year and half after being diagnosed with Anaplastic Oligoatrocytoma, Rob Bromee passed away this weekend surrounded by the people he loved.

It was when I circled back to Sara's desk to share with her the secret moment I'd witnessed between her husband and her back, that I understood a simple truth: where we work, family means more than significant others. "Thanks so much for sharing," Sara said. "I really needed that today." I asked if she was OK, but I knew that she wasn't. None of us were. We'd lost one of our own. 

Sara and I hugged without saying too much. She went back to her work, and I shuffled off to my next meeting where I sat and thought about the things that really matter.

Those moments when we think no one is watching. The all-too-brief encounter with someone so special that they inadvertently change our lives forever. The people we love. The people that make us laugh. What else is there?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Hudson has two older brothers: Baloo and Nigel. Nigel is the sweet, fat one who's always looking for love. If somethings is yours, he'll sit on it and keep it warm for you. In particular if its something you need or are trying to read. He'll jump in your lap, bake biscuits on your belly, and literally wrap his arms around your neck to give you a hug and whisper sweet nothings in your ear. Baloo on the other hand is the one that's bad news bears. He jumps, scratches, nips at your heals, escapes from the house every chance he gets, takes huge bites of your freshly baked cake when you're not looking... the list goes on and on. While I was pregnant, I would have nightmares about Baloo jumping into the baby's crib at night. 

Oh, did I mention they're cats?

Turns out, I had absolutely nothing to worry about. While Nigel was relatively indifferent to Hudson, Baloo took it upon himself to be his guardian angel.

For a while I think Hudson thought the cat's name was actually "NOBALOO!" since that's what we yell at him 90% of the time. As he got older, he'd mimic us shaking a finger at Baloo telling him to stop whatever bad thing he was doing at the time—most often, laying all over Hudson's Thomas the Train tracks just as he was trying to squeeze his engines around the bend. Nowadays, they're peas in a pod, and we're the ones getting dirty looks for scolding either of them.

Most of the time, it's hard to remember why we love him so much, especially since he's always getting into trouble. It's not infrequent that Logan's complaining about the wretched smell of Baloo's poop (he has the totally-not-endearing habit of leaving his twosies uncovered in the litter box... like he's trying to show the world who's boss) or I'm yelling things like, "Why is he so bad!?!? Why don't we just let him run away!?"

The answer is simple: Because just like our human kid, we love him unconditionally.

And so, as he headed to the emergency vet a few mornings ago with a hugely swollen face, and we were told there's a possibility it's a tumor, all of the bad thoughts we'd ever had about Baloo flew from our minds and we buckled down to take care of our sick boy. After undergoing surgery, he came home with a drainage tube sticking out of his face and a cone around his neck (which, evidently, is not used to help deaf animals hear.) 

Tomorrow, our oldest son will go back to the vet to have the tube removed and to undergo some additional tests. Despite everything, I just want him to be OK, to come back home, and to tear up the place just like old times. 

Huddy's been extra careful with him since this whole thing started. Petting him gently on the head, saying "Baloo sick. I love you, Baloo." 

Well, I love you, too, Baloo. Just like the Wooz does. (Maybe more.)

Sunday, May 6, 2012


While the bulk of my thoughts normally tend toward the mysterious (what am I going to be when I grow up?), the worrisome (how are we going to pay for this thing?), the frustrating (why do people suck?), and the things that are out of my control (why did Sacramento have to be west of LA?), this weekend was different. I traded in my everyday worries, for 48 hours of fun.
LIKE... that I know where we'll be
every first Saturday of the month
LIKE... that Hudson is obsessed with "Backet-Ball"
but LOVE ...that he's smartening up quickly.

LIKE... that these two guys know how to celebrate a birthday in style.

LIKE... that these two guys don't care who's watching.

LIKE... that doggies are models of unconditional love.
LIKE... that Hudson is the Assistant GC.

LOVE... that I know where my breakfast comes from.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


The non-profit I've work for over the last 5 years was founded in 1986 by two amazing people. Our mission is to reduce the economic and environmental cost of energy, which makes it pretty easy to get out of bed and go to work every morning. 

Technically, 2012 marks our 26th year. And yet today, we kicked off our official 25th anniversary celebration in grand fashion. Over 260 employees, from 4 regional offices convened in Burlington to honor the company and the great work we've achieved to date. Add to that, two pretty inspiring speeches by Senator Bernie Sanders and Vermont State Governor Peter Shumlin—neither of whom are actively campaigning, meaning they came to our office because they really believe in and are proud of the work we do—and who cares if the math's a little wonky?

The after-hours pizza party had been billed Employees Only so we thought it would be inappropriate to bring Hudson. When I mentioned that to our Director, he said, "That's ridiculous." Add that to the fact that another couple (both of whom work with us) had gotten clearance to bring their kid, we decided to buck the system and bring ours too. After all, he relocated to DC for the firm. Didn't he deserve a little pizza?

After dinner came an epic trivia contest. (Imagine, if you will, 150 pretty nerdy people answering wicked nerdy questions.) After the 1st round of pre-scripted questions, the tables were turned and each team of 4 was asked to come up with questions of their own. Just as round 2 was beginning, 1/4 of our team went home and I had to leave the room to change a diaper. When I returned, I learned that Logan had submitted a question on our team's behalf. A geography-based question. I knew we were in trouble.

"What city is west of LA?"
A. Tijuana
B. Sacramento
C. Phoenix
D. Tahoe

He thought it was brilliant, given that we'd recently seen an awesome Google Chrome ad—and subsequently conducted a pretty funny Google search—that revealed the answer. Well, sort of

At first we were thrilled, NO ONE had guessed the right answer except our team, which meant we got bonus points. But when the "correct" answer (D. Tahoe) was revealed, the crowd revolted. Smart Phones whipped out faster than you can say Please do not bring your cell phones to this event. Engineers, Planners, Customer Services Representatives, HR Managers... all were up in arms. "It's SACRAMENTO!!" they yelled. What ensued was 10 minutes of arguing, Googling, and finally an on-screen digital presentation that proved that Sacramento was, in fact, west of LA. And while Tahoe is also west of LA, Sacramento is wester. Seriously, people? Wester? 

The crowd argued that we didn't deserve any points for our deceitful question, but I—in defense of my husband and the honor of my son who seemed perplexed, but greatly amused by all the commotion—retorted, "We deserve 5 points, not 1, for causing this much fun!"

Logan will likely never live down the great 2012 debacle now infamously known as "The Sacramento incident", but I know that 25 years from now—or 26 if you're really counting—I'll be as proud of being part of the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation family as I am today.