There is nothing quite like a case of nerves… bring out my “inner Martha.” You know the one I mean. The creative one.

Tomorrow is our town’s annual Town Meeting. A wonderful form of local government where decisions are made about things like town ordinances and next year’s budget.  A moderator is elected to run the meeting and voters will nominate candidates for Selectmen, school committee, Town Clerk and Tax Collector. They vote to authorize Selectmen to enter into contracts for snow removal, trash removal, all kinds of maintenance, and engineering studies for future town projects. Do we need a new Town Office? Does the town dock at Islesford need to be extended? Do we need to look into building a drive-on dock in Manset, the property our town purchased on the “mainland” for extra summer parking? It is a LOT to go through and discuss. And, in March, after everyone has been somewhat cooped up, the discussions can become heated and long.

So why should I be nervous? Because for the last 5 years or so, I have been nominated to moderate this meeting and I have run totally unopposed. If anyone else wants to do it, they are not speaking up. Tonight I will sit down with the town warrant, the annual report, and the Maine Moderator’s Manual, (thank god there’s a guide for this!) and I will be prepared to say “yes” if I am elected tomorrow. If so, I will proceed to try to run the meeting smoothly, trying to call on everyone who raises their hand, trying to keep discussions on track of the motion on the floor, and keeping track of the priority of motions. ie. “A motion to amend takes priority over the motion to put an article on the floor.”  So, if someone makes a motion to amend the article, you have to vote on whether you’re going to amend the article before you can vote on the article. Also, most articles can be discussed after they are on the floor, but a nomination or a motion to call the question allow for no discussion. If I can’t remember these things off the top of my head it’s okay. I just need to know where to find the answers in the manual to keep the meeting flowing.

Getting ready for this makes me nervous. And we have a house guest coming today. And we will have 10 people for dinner tonight. I’ll wait for everyone to go to bed and then cram for tomorrow’s “test.” In the meantime I’m cleaning the house, getting the table set for dinner, making bread, making salad, and making dessert. My body responds to the anxiety about tomorrow by going in several directions at once. It’s not enough to just set the table for dinner. I want to create a little springtime centerpiece. Next thing I know, I’m making my own grass out of green paper.

I realize that the urge to be unnecessarily creative when stressed is one of my coping mechanisms. I start to engage my right brain as much as possible, so that the left side of my brain can slow down and put things in order while I’m keeping my hands busy. I never thought about it that way until today when I literally asked myself, “What are you doing that for?!” It would explain why the other day, when I was totally troubled by coming up with an idea for my next Working Waterfront column, due Tuesday,  I started cleaning my shower. (It needed it, but I had not scheduled any specific time to do it.) It took longer to clean than expected because as I was scrubbing, my mind was writing. I had to keep running downstairs to the computer to write down my ideas.

My sons used to tell me that they knew whenever I had a lot on my mind, because I would be in the kitchen baking several different things at once.

Yup. Doing that today, too.





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8 responses to “There is nothing quite like a case of nerves…

  1. First, you will be great in your new role. The fact that you fret over it means you care, which will in turn lead you to do a great job. Second, if scrubbing and baking and creating are your stress-management tools, consider yourself lucky. Lots of people drink too much, spend too much, abuse themselves and others while stressed. Thirdly, and finally, that bread is stunning. I’d say it looks too good to eat, but I bet it tastes even better than it looks!


  2. Barb Fernald

    Thanks Nancy. I wish scrubbing were the first stress management tool I turned to. Then my house would look a little cleaner! But you’ve given me a good reminder that at least I don’t turn to drinking anymore for stress management.
    The bread was one of my new year’s resolutions. Make sourdough that looks and tastes like our friend at the bakery made it. (She gave me some good tips!)
    I knew I had done it when one of our friends, who owns the restaurant that is open here in the summer, tasted the bread and said, “Al makes the best bread.” I was pleased to correct him and say, I made that.” It makes me happy every time I make bread.


  3. crnbrycst

    The reason you are nominated every year and are unopposed is because you are so good at moderating that meeting. Damn good! And you are good because you care and because you care enough to take the time to prepare and because you love where you live. Moderating the Town Meeting is a huge and tremendous gift that you give of yourself to the town you love every year. All the creative energy is a benefit to you and to all those around you. I’ll be thinking of you and enjoy tonight. Sarah and I will be making a picture key for the CC collage. xo


    • Barb Fernald

      Susan, you are a GOOD friend! Thanks for the vote of confidence. I wish you were going to be there so I would have someone to roll their eyes for me when I can’t!!
      My smack hand is ready!


  4. is it that time of year again?! how many town meetings have i known you for? 5, maybe? you are extraordinarily productive…that bread looks so yummy!
    tick, tick, tick….it’s almost here!


    • Barb Fernald

      The boat is in 45 minutes. I stayed up late last night to review stuff. The meeting is usually fine once it gets going. And I am usually a wreck until we get going. By late this afternoon I’ll be right back here reading e-mail from my cozy living room!


  5. crnbrycst

    Famous last words! Chris and Malcolm got back here at 8:15 p.m.


    • Barb Fernald

      Ugh! That was a long ass meeting! So glad you didn’t have to sit through it. I was losing it after 5 p.m. I really had no patience by then for people who did not just get right to the point. I did manage to hold it together to deal with Junior who showed up after lunch in his usual condition.
      Done for this year! Phew!


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