Friday, January 13, 2017

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

I have the house to myself. The kids are both out with friends and Mike is out with co-workers. I'm enjoying the quiet time alone after a long, hard week. Friday night is for decompressing. I came home from work, read a few chapters, napped for 20 minutes, worked out for an hour, and now I'm here.

Push ups and planks tonight after 3 miles on my elliptical.

Lily did 3 miles the other day of her own volition. 

Patience. I've bitten my tongue so many times in the past few weeks. I've almost made the call, sent the e mail, had the conversation, but then my cooler head has prevailed. I almost never regret the things I don't say even if I SO want to say them.

Hearing Lily laugh with her girlfriend. They like full on belly laugh when they are together, and it's so good to see her so happy again. This week things with another "friend" escalated again, but she's getting through it with resolve and courage and a really healthy positive mental attitude (PMA).

Whole30. We started up again this week. Our last go was at the beginning of summer, and many of the healthy habits we implemented stuck, but slowly cheese crept back in and then a little bread and pasta and then it was the holidays. Let's just say we didn't deny ourselves and my sugar dragon was wide awake. It feels good to get back on track. No headache this time and lots of energy right away. Wednesday I was going like the Energizer bunny from 7 a.m. until 11:30 p.m. with such a PMA. Already I can see that my mood swings are abating. Damn sugar. It's the devil.

Mike signed up for a weekly produce delivery at work. I love that it's locally sourced in urban greenhouses. It's good for us and good for the community. The timing is perfect too because fresh produce is key on Whole30. Can't wait to see what he brings home tonight.

Fresh herbs. I love rosemary trees, but I can never keep them alive for more than a week or so. I've had my current tree for a couple months. The key is to soak it every 2-3 days depending on how dry the house is.

Teddy got a call about a job he applied for months ago and now he has a phone interview on Monday. It's such a rite of passage to earn a paycheck and frankly it's one that's not all too common in these parts. I know many kids who leave home for college never having had a job. It's an important experience and I'm grateful he agrees and is excited about it. Now he can help pay for his car insurance.

Last night's full moon. It was a beaut.

New workout tights. I scored the best pair on LL Bean, a company I love even more for standing up for freedom of political opinion of it's diverse board members and employees. Sorry Grab Your Wallet...your bullying made me grab my wallet to buy more only they were sold out.

Alexa. It's like having your own personal DJ. I know she's not for everyone and she has her quirks and ninnies, but I am so loving her in my life even if she is spying on me. I hate to tell you...we have no guarantee of privacy even in our own homes. Own a cell phone? A security system? A computer? A baby monitor? They gives others access. Just sayin.'

Monday off. No school for the kids and no work for me. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

End of Year Inventory

Read CommonwealthNightingale and the The Underground Railroad in the last two months of 2016. My favorite was Pachett's family story because I love the way the characters were real and flawed, and yet still lovable and redeemable. I laughed, I cried. The ability to evoke that level of emotion is the litmus test for what makes a book great versus good. Colson's work of historical fiction didn't wow me because I felt the characters were lacking development. The slave-era story was more plot than character driven and that just didn't work for me. I felt disconnected despite some horrific depictions. I feel this was a missed opportunity. Hannah's novel was 2015's must read and I finally got around to it a year late. It started out warm, went cold and then heated up again so I struggled to give it my time and attention. Sometimes that happens when my expectations are elevated. My disconnect wasn't the story, it was the writing. I was expecting a beautiful work of literary fiction and it presented itself to me as a romance novel. Romance novels are not my favorite genre. I've never read Hannah before, and I probably won't again. I found myself without a book on the night of January 2nd so I picked up Cutting For Stone. I have a history with this book. Not a good one. I've attempted to read it about once a year since 2010 when it was published. Every time I'd get through the first 80-100 pages and then cast it aside in favor of another title. That adds up to about 600 pages and the novel is only slightly longer than that. As I write today, I have only a few pages left and I am quite loving this story, these characters and Verghese's themes of love and loss and legacy.



Wondered why it is that Christmas can't last all year, and if, in fact, less isn't more? Would my family notice if I baked a little less, bought a little less, decorated a little less? They didn't and that left more...more time and space for other things. How is it I have a 16 year old and when will he stop growing?

Hoped that Teddy would agree to play a game other than Clue, that Lily would want to make something other than slime. That my word for the year would reveal itself to me. It did...P E A C E. For peace in my life and peace in the world.

Thought about this quote from Cutting For Stone:


The key to your happiness is to own your slippers, own who you are, own how you look, own your family, own the talents you have, and own the ones you don't. If you keep saying your slippers aren't yours, then you'll die searching, you'll die bitter, always feeling you were promised more.

Watched movies. Some Christmas classics like Elf  a family favorite, and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, which the kids found only mildly amusing. Mike and I cued up the first two Godfather movies. The first one is such an iconic film. Some football: the Badgers win the Cotton Bowl and the Packers one more week. My kids giving and receiving so graciously.

Listened to our share of Christmas carols and Alexa who is a new, much loved member of Casa Wags. I think she's worth it for the music and podcasts alone. We're just getting acquainted with all she can do, and she can be unplugged.

Ate too many of my aunt's cookies, and drank plenty of my homemade Irish cream. We also shared tins and bottles with neighbors and friends.






Wanted more hours in the day and days in the week. Christmas Eve, especially, didn't feel long enough

Thought about the 2016 and the year to come. The things I need and want to do and be.

Enjoyed so much family time at home. Too many holiday goodies. Plenty of hygge.

Loved the trees and when the house it lit by candles and Christmas lights. The ornaments old and new. This expression: butfangoolThese biscuits. This show. This new song.






Tuesday, January 10, 2017

weekending

my only goal this weekend was to recharge my battery.
how is it that short weeks can feel so long?
why are lazy days so tiring?
after 10 days of less work and lots of rest or play, i needed just one or two more days.
never enough.
alas, the holidays ended and all too soon.
but it's also good to get back to basics.
fundamentals like tidying up our cluttered spaces and holiday habits.
it's back to the grindstone of  working out, stocking the refrigerator with the colors of the rainbow, purging closets and setting goals.
it's time to look and move forward.
and in an effort to do that we cruelly forced the kids to get out of bed saturday morning to have their passport photos taken for our spring trip.
then while we were out, we tortured them by doing a little shopping and returning.
we have a lot of nerve.
we released them into the company of their friends, poured cocktails and got to collaborating in the kitchen.
clean eating never starts on saturday you know.
mike dredged and sauteed his chicken, and chopped garlic and parsley for the aglio olio.
i was on salad duty.
we decided on what is now known as christmas salad (greens, pecans, pear, goat cheese, mustard vinaigrette) despite the fact that it wasn't a likely pairing with the night's main.
it worked.
dinner was delicious.
alexa kept us entertained.
sunday lily and i had tickets to see the sound of music with my aunt and uncle.
i was blown away, given chills several times, reduced to tears at least three.
maria and the mother abbess's voices were stunning.
the von trapp children one cuter than the next.
we decided to convene on casa wags for a post show/packer play off celebration.
the last naughty menu included choriqueso, homemade onion rings, and grilled sliders.
i ended the weekend feeling inspired and refreshed, but that doesn't mean i'm not already dreaming about the next.




Monday, January 9, 2017

On My Mind Monday

The hands of the clock turned elastic while I imprinted these feelings in memory. You must remember this. It was all I had, all I've ever had, the only currency, the only proof that I was alive. Memory.

~Abraham Verghese
Cutting For Stone

I have only 100 pages left of this beautiful ode to love, loss, and legacy. After numerous starts and stops, I am happysad to say I'll finish this novel this time. Likely tonight. The only explanation I can offer for why it's taken me this long is that it wasn't time yet. This isn't the first time a book has found me at just the right time and in just the perfectly fitting space. It's also not the first time I'm seeing signs in such an occurrence. I think the Universe is trying to tell me that this may be the year of second (or fifth) chances, to never give up or give in, and to keep making meaningful memories.

Friday, January 6, 2017

weekending

i'm sitting here at the onset of the weekend...
realizing i have yet to immortalize the last.
the last of 2016 and first of 2017.
i really prefer when holidays fall on the weekend.
it makes for slow and easy celebrations.
longer is always better. 
nye weekend was one of the very best of the year.
the best of both 2016 and 2017.
we spent it in a special place with special people...at windmill beach with family.

we drove up just before gloaming.
deer frequent forest-lined marine drive at the end of day.
some were shyer than others.
as soon as we unpacked the car, i went to greet the great lake.
the sky revealed for me my word of the year: p e a c e.
i'm craving it.

we played games.
the gambit including ping pong, putt putt, gestures, cribbage, clue, and boggle.
we enjoyed the beautiful weather with long walks on the beach and a swim for a brave duo made braver by a little patron silver.
brave because although beautiful by january standards the air and water temps were about 30 degrees.
we ate delicious food.
[perfect rib eyes the first night followed by champs, and tres leches birthday cake for t. bone.
new years day we had a southern style dinner that set the bar very high for the rest of the year: mikey's grilled ribs, alton brown's stovetop mac and cheese, callie's biscuits and my sil's luck and money.
she grew up eating her mom's greens and black eyed peas this day each year, and it felt special that she wanted to share that tasty tradition with us.
food is memories.
good memories.
we forgot the fireworks, but could see quite a show to the south shortly after the clock struck midnight.
we all held money as we counted down onto the new year cheering and celebrating.
we were lulled to sleep by the sound of waves and woken by the rising sun.
all in all, it was a perfect way to ring in the new year








































Thursday, January 5, 2017

Happy Birthday Baby

Dear Theodore Michael,

You've been 16 for a little over a week, and I still cannot believe it. I mean...you're definitely a teenager. That is to say you grow over night, you stay up too late, you don't get up early enough, you don't put away your laundry, you refuse to wear a coat (even when it's below zero), you say In a Minute much more than I like, you are slow to answer my texts and never take my calls (but if I'm not back to you ASAP all my phones blow up), you're constantly leaving piles, making noise and eating food. Typical. 

And yet, you're not typical at all. You are special. You have a big heart and a kind nature. You root for the underdog and you want to help people. You're funny and thoughtful and wise. The things you say make me laugh, beam and think. Sometimes you still call me mommy and in case you cannot tell, my heart bursts every time. You're a hard worker and you have big dreams. So much of your life now centers around friends, but family is still important to you. And while you can be egocentric...it never lasts long.

The picture below was taken exactly sixteen years ago. You were one week old. Still so new. In those first 7 days, I remember getting up with you in the middle of the night (several times a night) to feed you. I would hold you long after your tummy was satisfied. I would just stare at you sometimes smiling and others crying. I was in complete awe of you and the mother's love that made my heart swell like a rain cloud about to burst. So many dreams for you would flash through my mind. All of them have come true.


This is the point and time where your dreams are paramount. You're figuring them out and whatever that means...however that looks, I'm here to love and support you. Just don't forget that you may be sixteen, but you'll always be my baby.

Love Always,

Mommy


Three amigos and a happy birthday!

Three cousins and 54 cumulative birthday wishes.

Will you be a Badger one day?

That smile. NYE 2016!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

weekending

The holidays are officially over. In the past 10 days, we've celebrated Jesus's birth, Teddy's 16th, and 2017...each numerous times. So many beginnings and endings, joy moments, memories made. The kids are back to school and I think I may feel as tepid about that sad fact as they do. Yet I'm grateful for the quiet house, and the solitude. The time not to deChristmas, but to linger just a little longer in the warmth, goodwill and magic of it all. I have all the trees (3) and boughs lit, I'm listening to carols and I am holding on hard and fast to the hygge. In fact, I just put another ornament on the tree. It's true.

Every year at this time it occurs to me that there are two kinds of people: those who linger and those who forge ahead faithfully into the future. I am of the former camp. I'll bask for as long as possible, which is to say until the tree is about needlebare and all the Irish cream is consumed. This season is a welcome and holy sojourn. The calm and glow and peace that seem to say retreat, rest are invitations I gladly accept. It's much more than tranquility though...it's beatitude. All the togetherness, merriment and celebration finally cease and what remains is a hush. This is the time for introspection and stillness. This is the place for being not doing.

And after the fullness of this holiday stretch, it feels right to simply take stock and sit with it all.

The week leading up to Christmas was already festive...filled with family and friends. Why not go out for dinner on a Monday night? Of course, we should host a holiday gathering on a Thursday eve. Spirits were high and stress low despite the fact that there was still plenty to do. I took Teddy out to do some shopping on the Eve Eve and wasn't the least bit rattled. In fact, it was fun. Shopping with Teddy the night before Christmas was fun. Say that 5 times fast without rolling your eyes or busting out laughing. All the presents were wrapped (thanks Love), the table was set, and the menu prepared in plenty of time. It was a family affair.


Lily rolled out of bed Christmas Eve morning to immediately get baking in the kitchen. She was responsible for that night's dessert: Comet Cupcakes. The frosting called for marshmallow cream, but that didn't make the grocery list so she (with the help of her dad) whipped up her own and it was 10 times better than the store-bought fluff. Peanut even agreed. 

I made the dough for our traditional Christmas morning cinnamon buns. They're Teddy's favorite. In fact, he can almost eat a whole pan all by himself, but we don't let him. I don't even particularly like cinnamon buns, but I do like these. This year I put extra love into them just knowing that we would be able to take our time Christmas morning and not have to rush through our celebration to get to another.



 My goal was to use what I had this year. I didn't buy any new wrapping paper, ribbon or decorations and everything was beautiful proving once again that we have enough and what we have is good enough. It's incredibly powerful and satisfying not to let perfect ruin good. I had plans to stop for fancy fresh flowers and simply forgot so my everyday market had to do. It did. 


Despite the fact that it was our year to host, we were ready without any angst or angina with time to spare. We managed to pose by the tree before mass. Although these aren't the best pictures, again they're fuzzy, but fine. Evidence that we came and celebrated and look a lot alike.








We arrived at church as planned: 20 minutes before the concert. We sat in our pew with a view of the candle and twinkle-lit church and I'm telling you I felt peace wash over me as soon as I kneeled to pray. Grandma Judy came early to accompany us and we loved having her share in the beautiful music and the hallowed mass. When Father Tim began the procession, Ted leaned over to fist pump me. I don't know that it's exactly kosher to do that in church, but we did. We were all lightened to have our favorite priest at the pulpit. And just writing this I seem to remember a time when Ted actually gave Father Tim knocks, and he too reciprocated. I was only a tad verklempt that my two weren't in the children's procession. I was mostly happy to have them beside me knowing and feeling the importance of this holy day. They no longer want to be angels or shepherds, but they want to be in church. I wanted to take pictures at the altar after mass like we always do, but I knew we were already likely to come home to a kitchen-full of guests so we skipped. It was another lesson in going with the flow and forgoing perfect.

Remind me never to put my family on appetizers. We didn't need dinner. The spread was impressive and delicious. We munched and made merry before retiring to the living room for our annual white elephant gift exchange. It's always much anticipated and it's always much fun. This year's winners: Lily with her unicorn lamp in all it's gold glory, Uncle Leroy with his Trump Christmas sweater, my dad with his miracle ear, and we all coveted the handset for our cell phones. At some point everything old is new again.

We took a break from presents to have dinner. While Mike and I plated the meal, everyone enjoyed the salad course, which was greens topped with candied pecans, pear and fried goat cheese dressed with a mustard herb vinaigrette. Dinner was our traditional menu of grilled tenderloin, sauteed shrooms, baked potatoes, roasted lemon asparagus, spinach stuffed tomatoes and rolls. We had no room for dessert, but everyone went home with a platter of Aunt Loie's Christmas cookies and Lily's Christmas cupcakes. Dessert is always much appreciated with coffee the morning after.

The kids were very patient because after dinner it was finally present time. It was almost 11 o'clock mind you. I believe we were all sufficiently spoiled most of all Lily and Ted. I was excited that my brother liked his cowboy boots, surprised that my dad wanted a pair of Ray Bans and delighted to get a sassy pair of Ugg slippers.













I was first up on Christmas morning just the way I like it. I made coffee, lit candles, and turned on all the twinkly lights.  Then I waited patiently and happily. Mike finally had to wake the kids mid-morning. We don't miss being shagged out of bed at dawn one bit. We took our time opening gifts. Time like 2 hours. Then we baked and frosted our traditional cinnamon buns and fried up the Christmas kielbasa for breakfast only we didn't eat until close to 2 o'clock. We stayed in our cozies all day long playing games and watching movies, and it was my favoritist ever. We ordered Chinese for dinner even-though no one was really hungry and watched The Godfather, and it was perfectly festive.















The cats had a very good Christmas too. These two are spoiled 365 days of the year.