Category Archives: friendship

Holiday Concert in a Small Town in Maine

holiday concert

Left to right: Tom Osborne, Kyle Osborn, Michael Saulnier, Brian Saulnier

A Christmas tea featuring live musical performances by a talented pair of brothers was held at the Jeremiah Mason House Bed & Breakfast in Limerick on Saturday, Dec. 13. Hosts of the tea and concert were Tom and Kyle Osborne who have owned and run the bed & breakfast establishment for the past 14 years. For the fourth year in a row, they invited brothers Michael and Brian Saulnier to perform on guitar and piano, a tradition that hosts, guests, and the musicians look forward to as each Christmas season rolls around.

This year, the Osbornes also invited members of the Limerick Historical Society to attend the concert. “We used to hold it during the Limerick Village Christmas,” Kyle said following the hour-long concert. “But that was just too much so we decided to do it this way.”

The music room, adjoining dining room, and the hallway were filled to standing-room only for the afternoon event. Tom welcomed the guests to the historic home and introduced Brian Saulnier as the opening performer. Brian read a brief but touching essay on life in a small town at Christmas and then sang a set of Christmas songs, accompanying himself on his bright blue acoustic guitar.

Brian then introduced his brother, Michael, who had driven up to town from Massachusetts. “My brother Mike is here to play the piano, and I could listen to him all day long,” Brian said.

Michael, who has been seriously studying piano for six years, treated everyone to a variety of folk piano and jazz arrangements by such luminaries as George Winston  and Vince Guaraldi. Two songs, however, were composed by Michael himself. One, entitled “Lavender Falls” and the other a variation on the theme called, “Epicycles” were very much in the George Winston style with a lovely interplay of both right-hand and left-hand notes.

Following the concert, Tom thanked both musicians for sharing their gift. “Music has big healing power,” he said. “I want to thank Brian for sharing his voice and for introducing me to his brother, Mike.” Michael’s recorded cd was offered for sale, the proceeds of which were to go to the York County Shelter. Tom then invited the guests to partake of a variety of cookies and sweets baked on  and tea sandwiches which were provided by the Clipper Merchant Tea House.

When asked about his performance schedule, Mike said that he plays mostly for personal enjoyment and occasionally for the public when asked. Brian has also been busy this year, billing himself as The Musical Medic and playing at Maine Medical Center, nursing homes, and community events like the Research Club’s cookies and hot cocoa gathering following the tree lighting at the town’s A Village Christmas Festival. “There are infinite choices about what to do with limited time,” Brian said. “This is what I chose to do with mine.”

Lesson Two: Life Is in the Details

Tree Frog?

In this week’s Teen Writing Class, we talked about using vivid details to bring our stories to life. The scene below was extended from a couple of sentences to a descriptive little section complete with figurative language, inner dialogue, secondary characters, and sensory details. If you want to read the entire lesson, click HERE. Otherwise, hope you enjoy this scene that could be part of a longer young adult story or novel.


I loiter in the hallway outside Room 15, slipping through the doorway at the last possible second when the bell rings. The sharp chemical stench of formaldehyde hangs heavy in the room, inescapable. When I try breathing through my nose, I can taste the smell on the tip of my tongue. Dissecting day.

‘Larrisa Boucher! Put that knife down before someone gets hurt!’ From her perch behind the desk, Ms. Cameron screeches at a five-foot ten inch basketball player pretending to threaten her teammate, Brandi Ellerby, with the silver dissecting tool. The Lady Hawks goofing off at the corner station snicker and shuffle in a loose clump of sharp elbows, hooded sweatshirts, Amazonian legs. I shoot them a look, eyes narrowed. Mutants.

A feel a nudge at my elbow. ‘Are you okay?’ Angela Greer whispers, breath minty from her gum. ‘You look kinda pale.’ Her long, orange hair brushes my elbow.

Shaking my head, I say, ‘I don’t think I can do this.’

Angela leans closer. ‘You have to. If you don’t bring up your grade in Biology, you won’t be allowed to go to drama camp with me this summer.’

‘I know, I know!’ Holding my breath, I glance down.

There it is. The frog.

Reaching out, I slide a tentative finger along its back. The skin is cold and slimy and weirdly stiff. Not like a real frog. Nothing like.

I remember when I was a kid how my cousin and I would walk down to the stream on summer mornings and catch them–big, green croakers hiding close to the muddy bottom among the cattails. We’d plunge our hands into the cool water and grab one by his leg. They were slimy then, too, but in a live way, wiggly. This frog is dead. And I have to cut him open. It isn’t fair, I think, stomach hollow and queasy. Why do animals have to suffer for us to have this stupid biology class, anyway?

Mantodea: Thoughts On A Toxic Friendship

The Wishing Tree, Yoko Ono, Hirshorn Museum Sculpture Garden

My wish: I wish for healthy, supportive, positive relationships that strengthen local, sustainable communities.

Dear Reader:

I have this friend, let’s call her Mantodea. Mantodea is the queen of the underhanded cutting remark. The empress of sneaky “take-it-two-ways” observations. The undisputed champion of the wait-for-the-right-moment-and-strike-when-nobody-is-looking emotional attack. Often, when the attack is launched, you don’t even feel it at first. By the time the sting sets in, you try to remember what is was that she said. Most often, you can’t remember. Not exactly. The remarks are all so fast and blurry and out-of-the-blue and off-the-wall and definitely uncalled-for that they slip in, do their dirty work, and slip away again.

She waits for the right moment, disguised as a friend, then she pounces like the predator she is, and you, my dear, are the prey. She’s bitten your head off before you know it.

For years, I have put up with this behavior, excusing it as either artistic temperament, social retardedness, a bad case of running-of-the-mouth disease. I’ve even questioned my perception. Was I just being paranoid? Imagining slights where there were none intended?

But, no. I’ve seen her attack other people, slipping in a little barbed comment with some sweet-on-the-outside smile. Now she’s begun to make similar comments to the Teen–sometimes in my presence but more often when I’m not around.

Hello. Teenage girls do not need their flaws pointed out. They are well-enough aware of every quarter-inch of adolescent fat, every acne spot, every teeny, tiny imperfection–very often imagined and almost always exaggerated.

As a mom, it’s hard enough working against magazine images and music videos and a culture that equate thinness with beauty. Hard enough trying to tell your daughter she’s beautiful just the way she is without some insecure, middle-aged mantis telling her in so many words that she is not whatever . . . thin enough, athletic enough, popular enough. . . or even thin-fingered enough!

I think she’s crossed the line into crazy.

Over the years, Mantodea has alienated most of the women in her circle. She used to have a large group of women-friends in her neighborhood, moms of her daughters’ friends, co-workers, and neighbors, but over the years, one by one, they have all drifted away.

There’s been alot of press lately about toxic friendships. An article in WebMD says:

“The phrase ‘toxic friend’ is pop psychology,” says Jenn Berman, PhD, a psychologist in private practice in Beverly Hills, Calif. “I would say it’s someone who, after spending time with them, makes you feel bad about yourself instead of good; someone who tends to be critical of you — sometimes in a subtle way and sometimes not so subtle; a friend who drains you emotionally, financially, or mentally, and they’re not very good for you.”

A toxic friends counts on you to put up with her digs. She banks on the fact that you might not want a confrontation. She couches her attacks in language that seems rather innocuous. Her words are like that corn-starch clay kids make in craft-class . . . they appear solid but when you try to grasp them, they run through your fingers leaving you with an empty hand. Still, you know what you know. She’s toxic. She makes you feel bad. She undermines you in little ways. She pulls the rug out from under you and tee-hee’s when you stumble and then puts on an innocent face and says, “I didn’t mean anything by it.”

I don’t buy it. Life is too short to put up with toxic relationships. I don’t want to subject myself to her subtle put-downs anymore, and I certainly need to protect my daughter. Good friends support each other. Good friends help each other. Good friends accept you for who you are and build you up, encourage you in your endeavors, help you to be the person you want to be.

As we move toward a more local economy and closer-knit communities, it will be even more important to treat others with respect and care. Otherwise you may find yourself alone, cut-off. Neutralized.

There is the old saying that whenever you point one finger, four others are pointing back at you. As I release this toxic friendship, I am determined to be more aware of the energy I bring to my other relationships, to be ever-mindful that my positive or negative energy affects those around me, and then to act in ways that are uplifting, encouraging, and supportive.

Toxic friendship, you are hereby neutralized.

Ahhh, the air feels clearer already . . .