Luskin: Stress free summer

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(HOST) As summer winds down, commentator Deborah Luskin observes that the secret for enjoying a stress-free summer may be – to just say ‘no’.

(LUSKIN) Back in early May a friend invited my husband and me for a drink on her porch. It sounds so lovely: sitting on a screened porch overlooking an apple orchard, sipping something cold and conversing with friends at the end of a summer’s day. I still haven’t responded. It’s not that I don’t want to enjoy the company and the view, but that I found myself allergic to scheduling a social life this summer.

Summers in Vermont are notoriously brief – and busy. In addition to the work of the world, there are all those warm-weather activities we dream about all winter: swimming, biking, boating, and ending the day with a beer.
But summers are also tough, especially for parents with jobs and young kids but no school. When our kids were little, they needed us during the summer, and we had to work. Finding good, summertime childcare is a challenge.
My husband’s a country doctor, and summer is a busy time, so the logistics of summertime childcare always fell to me. Piecing together play dates and day camps sometimes had me spending more time in the car than at work.
This year, however, all three of my children are drivers, and they’re all employed, two out-of-state. So for the first summer since I moved here to write my first book, I’ve had a summer of blank pages before me. I wasn’t going to clutter them up, even with social events.
I’ve accepted few invitations and offered almost none. Instead, I’ve stayed home – and loved every minute of it. Rather than interrupt my train of thought to prepare for company, I’ve worked to the end of a sentence, then ambled out to the garden, where I could organize my ideas for the next day while tending to the weeds. I’ve never had such well-maintained garden before, nor one so productive.
Rather than rush off in the car, we’ve lived at a walking pace and stayed in the neighborhood. On a walk one evening, we noticed the renovation underway at a neighbor’s. She spied us from her kitchen window, came out, and gave us a tour of the new sills and beams going in to shore up her old house. From there, she took us on a tour of the barn, a vast repository of stuff, some of which dates back to the home’s previous owners, but a lot of which has accumulated since her family bought the place back in 1923.
As we said goodbye, our neighbor thanked us for what she called "a door yard visit." It was perfect: there was no planning, no preparation and no clean-up. We simply enjoyed a two-hour chat.
But the days are grow short and my fall teaching schedule approaches. The pace of life is picking up. I’ll be back out in the world. I know I’ll want to entertain again, and I’m sure I’ll accept future invitations – if they’re offered. But for once, it has been lovely to live low and enjoy the slow pace of a stress-free summer.

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