Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thankful


Before getting out of bed this morning, I took time to say a few prayers. A lot more than a few. It occurred to me in that in between place of sleep and waking that most everyone I know is going through something tough. I've been ruminating on my own trials, but the reality is that so few are untouched, and if they are, probably not for long. Certainly not forever. This sounds pessimistic, but I assure you it's just realistic. Life is hard.

Life is also beautiful especially when we can give support and accept it. I usually don't pray before getting out of bed. I think that's a mistake. I felt such peace this morning. Of course I did. I asked for help and I accepted it. What an empowering lesson.

Today is a tricky day for me. This was my Mom's favorite holiday and so I see her in all the traditions we celebrate. I want to feel her too though. As the day unfolds and the festivities commence, I lose her, and that's why I like to get up and watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade. She watched it religiously every year. She'd likely already been up for hours prepping the turkey and making the stuffing, which I sure regret never doing with her because she took the recipe to her grave. It was a family favorite, yet to be replicated. I've looked through her recipe box time and time again. There are 20 recipes for chop suey, which she never made, and 20 recipes for a goulash we never ate, but not a single stuffing recipe.

Now my Dad makes good stuffing too, and he even makes it two ways: with and without giblets. He's learned that no one prefers the chopped up organs in the stuffing except for him. I imagine he likes it that way because that's the way his mom made it. My Grandma lived through the depression. Wasting food was never an option and always a sin. We're all missing loved ones lost, paying tribute to them and keeping their memories alive.

But I digress. I always feel like the parade is my time with my Mom even though I didn't sit down and watch it with her often when she was here. There were many years I'd just gone to bed. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving was a big night out for kids. But I remember hearing the bands and smelling the feast being prepared and feeling so happy and safe and warm as I drifted in and out. It's that feeling that everything is right in the world, and it's temporary.

This morning the sun was lighting up the eastern sky in such a showy way, but by the time I juiced my lemon and started my coffee, cloud cover took over. That's the way I like it. Thanksgiving should be brisk and broody. So many people complain about the shorter days and the falling temperatures this time of year, but not me. I welcome the exterior darkness and the chill in the air. It invites introspection and ignites my inner fire. And it's temporary.

Today I'll take a walk with my husband. We've been running or walking on this day since we've been together. It's a tradition. Then we'll make our way to my Dad's for family time, football and feasting. We eat the same meal, give the same toasts, take a family picture in the same spot year after year and there is comfort in that. There is also much to be thankful for despite the bumps in the road we all endure. The road is life and it's not easy, but it sure is beautiful, and for that, this, them I am always grateful.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

Surviving an awful week intact. I've much to say about this, but right now I'm still processing. The one thing I feel certain of, though, is that I stood up for what I believe in. And I feel good that I didn't let the bullies bully me.

Karma. It's a real thing.

My peeps. They have been there for me shoring me up. Lifting me up. Bringing me flowers, wine and movies, sending cards, calling to check in, texting more often.

Another girl's weekend. Mike is up north. Ted has volunteer obligations and plans with friends.

Lessons learned. She fell in love with pull tabs last weekend and Uncle B. Bone generously fed her habit. She lost every last dollar, and then he gave her $20 more and she wisely put it in her pocket.


Teddy strumming away. Singing away too and not just in the shower.


While huddling in the car waiting for the tow truck with my kids, Teddy says, "I like things like this. It keeps life interesting." It made me laugh and reflect on how a car that won't start is not really bad news in the grand scheme of things and I've raised a kid who can see that. 

Then while driving home with Lily, I asked her what the lesson was. She said, "Always turn the stove off and just keep calm." Smart ones my two.

When I left in a hurry, I left a plate full of freshly shredded cheese for mac and cheese on the counter. Peanut LOVES LOVES cheese. I worried that he would help himself and I'd being dealing with a car in disrepair and a cat in intestinal distress. As far as we could tell, he didn't steal a shred. 

I made the first stock of the season and it was the best ever. It became chicken noodle soup at Teddy's request. It's the first time in forever that we ate the whole pot of soup over the week and didn't have to freeze any. I sure hope I can replicate it.  


Lily baked brownies for Teddy's bake sale. We forgot until late Sunday evening. I had just cleaned the kitchen after Mike's yummy birthday dinner and I was exhausted. She offered to bake them and then left the kitchen spotless.


This quote from The House of Mourning by Kate Braestrup

You can trust a human being with grief. That's what I tell the wardens. I tell them, "Just walk fearlessly into the house of mourning, for grief is just love squaring up to its oldest enemy. And after all these mortal human years, love is up to the challenge."



First I Screamed, Then I Cried, Then I Laughed



Yesterday's Instagram prompt for a monthly challenge I'm participating in was A S i m p l y M a g i c a l M o m e n t. It's been a rough week. In my top three kind of rough. It's not death or divorce, but it sure feels like it. As you can imagine, I've not been feeling awash in moments of magic, and yet they were there. They're always there. I'm finally noticing them again. It's near impossible to feel, see or move toward the light when you are angry or sad, but it's what we must do if we want to be the light. I want to be the light.

Sometimes these reminders come in the form of a shiny penny on the floor as you close a chapter in your career. I'm that person who stops to pick up any and every discarded penny I see. Yes, even when I'm on a busy street or in a crowded place. I'm not saying I invest in their promise of luck, but I'm not saying I don't. My things were all packed up Tuesday and I was ready to get on my way, and that penny nearly blinded me as I took one last look at my space. It seemed important that near worthless piece of copper. It felt like a beacon...a lifeline...a nod. How could I leave it lying there?

The other day I picked up All These Wonders only to find just the message I needed. Now, this book is full of story gems and they all deliver worthy messages so the fact that I received words of wisdom is not the uncanny surprise. I've been randomly reading these stories and I finally decided to read the first tale. On the first page, I was shaking my head when I read, "Fear pervades everything: where you live, what you do for a living. You find the first solid thing, and you don't risk going any further." The magic moment was picking the story that spoke to me clearly at that precise moment. It was a hug. A hug I very much needed.

There was a rainbow in the sky earlier this week, and also on my phone. My friend texted me a picture of the colorful fata morgana just as I was admiring it. It felt like hope shining down on me. It was much more to me than a band of color. It was a premonition of purpose. Later in the day she sent me another picture of another rainbow. One for each of us.

Last night the van died when Teddy went to pick up Lily from basketball practice at school. The phone rang shortly after he left and before I answered it, I prayed that it wasn't Teddy with bad news. Then I called my husband who was on his way up north and I screamed like a madwoman. I'm sorry love. You need to know this has much to do with the fact that every.single.time he travels, something sizable goes wrong, and also of course, the fact that I've had a royally s#$!!? week. I was in the middle of making dinner, but luckily I regained the sense of mind to turn off all three pots on the stove. Then I got in my son's car to come to their rescue, and it didn't start. I started to cry. I looked up and I'm pretty sure I begged more than I prayed, and I tried again. The Saab started. I practiced meditative breathing on the way to the school, and I called AAA to order a tow. I went to the worst places because that's the kind of week I've had. I knew it had to be something major. The very nice AAA operator told me we were priority and that we could expect service at 7:00. It was 5 o'clock. I found my kids in the car working together on Lily's math homework in the now deserted pick-up line no worse for the wear. Shortly thereafter we got an update that Jimmy's Towing would be on the scene at 6:00. He was given the wrong address and was driving around the unlit, windy streets in his big rig, but he didn't give up. He found us at 6:10. I told him what happened and he took one look at Teddy and then asked him if he was listening to music with the car off. Teddy affirmed his suspicions and he checked the battery. Dead. He jumped us. The White Whale was back in business for a $20 tip. I thanked him profusely and shared a little bit about my week with him hoping to explain just how much his kindness and assistance meant to me especially at this time. We spent a few minutes talking...really connecting despite the fact that we'll never likely see one another again. On the way home, I laughed.

The end.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

weekending

mike celebrated a big birthday this weekend.
this milestone often involves gag gifts and surprise parties, or trips to faraway places.
my guy decided he wanted a cozy celebration at windmill beach.
his appreciation of the small things is just one of the things i love about him.
because we all know, or should, that the small things matter big.
and although windmill beach isn't faraway, it may as well be on another planet.
the sky was showy and the surf was singing.
it was a perfect november weekend to be close and cozy.



his only request was that we watch the badger game he decided not to attend.
we took over half the handlebar.
we cheered the team onto victory, ate bar food, played pool and pac man, and got lily addicted to pull tabs. 


the rest of the night went like this: poker tournament, delicious lasagna dinner, a birthday toast/roast, and then my brother played dj into the night. i half expected the guys to take the polar plunge at some point, but no one made the challenge.



sunday we woke to a temperate day so we took a walk before breakfast, or caught up on stranger things and played ping pong or worked on the puzzle.


we left midday so lily could meet with friends.
the guys watched more football while i prepped dinner.
the birthday boy's choice was chicken marsala.
it was a good one.
look at those caramelized shrooms.
we had family dinner in the candlelit dining room. 


then we gathered in the living room for presents and pictures.
and i just hope that my guy knows how special he is to all of us everyday...
not just on his birthday.


Friday, November 10, 2017

My Books For Living


I just finished Will Schwalbe's Books for Living. I've read a handful of his choices. I have a few on my must read stacks and I'll add a few more. It got me to thinking about my own list. What I came up with is not comprehensive or chronological. It's my quick response without overthinking or editing. I know for a fact that I'm leaving a few gems off because they failed to come to my mind at this time. These are books that came to me at the right time because I remember reading them and feeling something profound, and thus, memorable.



The Tao of Pooh was left in my apartment in college. I don't who left it or why. I read it and the messages of living simply and slowing down resonated with my overly-scheduled, highly distracted self. Things didn't change for me overnight, but seeds were planted to be in the moment more.



I read Romeo and Juliet for the first time in high school when I was in a tumultuous relationship with someone who made me feel all the highs and lows of being in love in one day and sometimes in the same hour. Being young and naive, I saw that as romantic. We went on in this way for years. Then I read this play again in college when I was in another relationship that was going off track, and I started to see this dynamic as destructive and unhealthy. That only lasted another six months. I once was a star-crossed lover. I have had my own Romeos.


I read Tuesdays with Morrie when it came out in 2002. I had a toddler so I identified not just as a mother, but also a teacher. It's one of the important things parents do. This book is more about living than dying. The legacy Morrie left by living in the moment made so much sense to me. I spent my time alternately trying to stop time to soak in this little person...this life, and fast forwarding it to see who he or we would become. I started to once again make the shift to living in the moment. 



Gratitude came to me a couple years ago. Since losing my mom, death and dying are always on my mind and heart. This book of essays written during what he calls the "Sabbath" of his life, left me with incredible peace. It reminds me to do good and to be good.

Let's just continue on this path. I read How it Feels When a Parent Dies when I was a tween. It was on the book shelf of the family I babysat for. I was intrigued because all parents were alive and well. I started reading the stories of these children of all ages and I couldn't stop. Then I couldn't stop crying. My parents were alive and healthy, but this book caused me to imagine a time when that would not be the case. I still pick this book up from time to time, and of course, now I know exactly how it feels.







The Prophet was the rage in college, yet I still turn to it for comfort in life. No matter where I'm at, this tome offers timeless comfort.

"No man is an island,” said John Donne. I feel we are all islands – in a common sea."



I read Gift from the Sea in my 20s before kids and I didn't connect with it. Then I read it in my 40s after kids, and I think I copied a quote from every other page into my common book. It's a treasure that I return to often filled with simple wisdom and not just for women. It taught me that their is a wisdom that comes with age.


"My wound is geography. It is also my anchorage, my port of call."

The Prince of Tides was one of the first novels I read that struck me as beautiful and terrible at the same time. Conroy is an eloquent writer, but his stories are often brutal. This book ignited my passion for fiction that is beautifully written, but sometimes hard to read.



all Mary Oliver In every poem or essay, there is at least one line that strikes and then stays with me. The common themes that simplicity is sublime in poetry and in life, and that the natural world is our supreme teacher always speak to me.



Joy Luck Club and really all of Tan's novels resonate with me because they are all about family and usually mother/daughter relationships, which always intrigue me. Relationships, especially female relationships, are complicated and beautiful. I was introduced to Tan in a contemporary literature class I took in college. It was an eye opening semester and a favorite class. One in which I also was turned onto Louise Erdrich, Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison. The semester changed me not just as a reader, but also as a person.



The Year of Magical Thinking is a book about mourning. I read it shortly after my mom passed, and although Didion writes about the year following the death of her husband, it put poignant words to so many of my feelings. 

God doesn’t need to punish us. He just grants us a long enough life to punish ourselves.”

The Poisonwood Bible is one of my favorite novels. It's a family tale with a historical context that is set in one of my favorites places to read about: Africa. It's one of a few novels I've read more than once and wish that I had written. It inspires me that I still have a novel in me. Perseverance.



I read Wild a couple years after my mom passed, and it was so cathartic for me because although my story is very different from Strayed's, there is also something so universal in grief. So this sad story actually lifted me up because I felt less alone. Grief diminishes us and then gives is the chance to emerge from the pain and sadness stronger.

I finished The Bright Hour this summer. Now my grief is 9 years old, and this book helped me understand how the loss I suffered has changed me as a person. I realized that initially grief is bone crushing. Now it's just soul sucking. It never goes away...it just changes so live every moment until you've none left. It also makes me more compassionate and empathetic and forgiving.

If You're Afraid of the Dark Remember the Night Rainbow is a favorite I read to my children when they were little and we spent lots of time admiring the whimsical illustrations. We all need a little magic in our lives and a reminder to persevere.


Eat Pray Love taught me that we're never too old to change, learn, grow. It also informed that we deserve happiness a lesson I'm still learning today.



Jane Eyre because who doesn't love a great orphan tale, a Beauty and the Beast love story, and the Bronte sisters? It one of the classics I actually enjoyed reading.



Wide Sargasso Sea intensified the impact Jane Eyre had on me because essentially it's the prequel. I read both works in college for a feminist lit. class that lit a fire in me where women's issues are concerned. 

On the Road was one of the first novels I read because everyone was walking around talking about how brilliant it was, and I hated it. Catcher in the Rye was another. My unpopular point of view made for some interesting and intense conversation and to this day reminds me that it's ok to disagree.

"Discernment. Such a beautiful word….I thought about what it meant to choose wisely – not just once or twice, but in every waking moment."

Devotion is a memoir about spirituality and grief that touched me deeply. Dani Shapiro really leaves her soul on the page, and I pick this up when I need to remember that I have a body, but I am a soul as C.S. Lewis once said. We are but a small, humble part of something divine.

"Happiness is simple. Everything we do to find it is complicated."

Hand Wash Cold by Karen Maezan Miller is a memoir that illuminates simple Buddhist principals within the context of our daily lives and chores. It made me see the power in being present in every little thing I do another lesson I learn and relearn often in my life.

Crossing to Safety is a tale of loyal friendship, committed marriage, a mostly happy family that is just real. There's no big betrayal or extensive drama. Stegner has written a beautiful story with strong, interesting characters that illuminate a life worth living and isn't that what we all want at the end of the day...days. 



Beloved was one of the most difficult, disorienting novels I've ever read and also one of the most beautiful and rewarding. It taught me that hard work pays off and confusion gives way to clarity. It taught me not to give up.


I'm not a big fan of romantic fiction otherwise known as the sappy love story, but The Bridges of Madison County left me feeling raw, and desperate for that kind of all encompassing love. I can still pick this book up today and feel all the feels. It's a great one when I just need a cathartic cry.


Any Ina Garten because she's the best. I read cookbooks. It's a thing. I have all of Ina's and I go to them often for relatively easy, delicious food.



Every Katrina Kenison because she always speaks to my years are minutes and be.here.now proclivities. 



Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

Monday night football...an excuse to order pizza. Pizza four ways. None of us prefers the exact same pie although Lils and I are close so we are able to do halfsies. Pepperoni and onion with green pepper on her half and olives on mine. Thin crust.


We had our first flurries today. Nothing stuck, but it was pretty. Candace and I walked along the avenue and noticed how holiday decorations are multiplying by the day. I started to feel a little festive.

The first gift of Christmas arrived this week.

Just last weekend, I was enjoying the vibrant fall colors.



The winter sky. I love it best. Probably because I love clouds.


This week Mike and I went for a walk under a city sky twinkling with so many stars. It's rare to notice the stars with all the city lights.

Noticing things.

Lily playing her uke. She taught herself Riptide this week. I was like what's that noise, and then was so happy to find her strumming away.

She was a trooper getting her teeth pulled the other day. Three upper teeth. Now she's ready for braces.

I found out Milwaukee hosts story slams. I already got tickets for the December event and I can't wait. I suggested All These Wonders for our December book club so the timing is perfect.


A girl's day spent exploring our city. We were in the Third Ward, the Fifth Ward, Riverwest, Downtown, Brewer's Hill, and the East Side.



Teddy came home from confirmation class this week and said it was fun.

He spent some of his own money to buy cans for the food drive at his school. Lots of cans.

Charity.

Simple Pleasures.


A day in the life of Peanut and Tigger. So charmed.


Peanut is Lily's cat and he just recently started sleeping with her at night. Then she leaves her softest blanket at the foot of her bed and as far as we can tell, he spends a good part of his day there too.


 Tigger always sleeps with me.


Soup. I've had a lot weighing on me this week so I got busy slicing and dicing. cooking brings me clarity.


And comfort. This potato soup was a Pioneer Woman recipe, and it was delish. Her recipes are usually so naughty that I feel guilty serving them unless it's a holiday or special occasion, but this was mostly guilt-free. Teddy, Mike and I loved it. Lily didn't even try it. It was the perfect chilly night meal with a slice of fresh out of the oven peasant bread.


An impromptu night out with my oldest friend, and on a school night. We laughed and we cried, and while we didn't solve all the problems, we solved some.


Limoncello for dessert.

A bottle of Montepulciano that we both so very much enjoyed, and she's not a wine lover.

Good friends. I sure know who mine are this week.

My tribe. Small, but fierce and mighty.

A text from another old friend this week. The timing gave me goose bumps. We were recalling the same decades old memory at the same time. I was telling Lily about it just as her text came through. This is always happening to us and I think it's a powerful reminder that we're made up of energy, and thus connection is not coincidence.

This is Mikey's birthday weekend. It's a big birthday too, and I feel a little bad because I'm sort of winging it. Plans fell through and then I've had a very stressful, exhausting week so no new big plans were made, but then we ended up with a pretty perfect itinerary. 

When everything works out.

Faith.