It's Saturday morning, not Friday, but any day is a good one to embrace gratitude. I woke up early this morning with that beholden feeling in my heart. There are a list of reasons some of which I'll share here...mostly small everyday pieces. There are other reasons that even I fail to understand. I no longer question gratuitous periods of lightness and levity. I accept them and I say thank you.
Today I give thanks for...
The first taste of total freedom relationship we have with Teddy. I text with him almost daily and we FaceTime a few times a week. And it isn't always mama bear initiating. He's out in the world doing his own thing, but he's knows where he came from and that he always has our love and support.
The other night he FaceTimed past my bedtime, but I waited up for T Bone to finish his workout and shower. He was in the relative dark shirtless munching on stalks of celery. Earlier in the day he and Yash finally made a move toward ambiance as they hung some funky LED lights around the perimeter of their closet-sized room. They were proud.
I was proud of the news Ted delivered. His team of four won second place in a business school competition out of 150 students. He won a meet and greet with the Proctor and Gamble execs and an assortment of laundry supplies none of which he needed as he's yet to do laundry. The thing I was most proud of was not the win, but that he took the initiative to seek out and sign up for this competition. He's doing another in December.
Initiative. Ted's volunteering at a Madison area food pantry where he is rather awed by a chef who turns donations into "gourmet" meals, and he's a Big Brother for a local tween. Oh and he got a job. He's working as a line cook at the Nitty Gritty and he'll be crossed trained as a server. He's finding his place...his people.
Lily too. She's been out and about with different friends. She's not being exclusive, and yet she's still inclusive. I feel like she's in a very good place with good people.
And I'm ever grateful for my tribe. Candace stopped by last night. I was upstairs in bed with books. Lily saw her as she tried to leave my pie dish and then skedaddle without disturbing us. Lily insisted she come in. I'm glad she did. I want my friends to know that my door is always open.
The night before, Jess came for wine and cheese and then stayed for soup. It was an end of day decision. Jess just tells me when she wants to come over and I'm more than good with that. If it's not once a week, then I start really missing her.
Speaking of soup...I brought my chicken tortilla soup and fixings in for lunch yesterday. I'm pretty sure it was the highlight of Alan's week. Listening to him enjoy it was inspiration for the cook in me. Linda battled runny nose and watering eyes to almost finish her bowl, and then Alan helped her out. It was a little hot for her. She's my sweet tooth.
We had a movie date last night. Mike picked Doctor Sleep. Wow it was long and a little goofy. Lily, Gracia and I lamented that we didn't insist on seeing Last Christmas, and yet I love going to the theater on a chilly night.
Tonight we will celebrate my mother in law. Twelve of us will gather at Harvey Moy's to wish her a Happy Birthday. I am looking forward to a lovely, delicious evening with family.
Mike's birthday is Tuesday. I have a special dinner planned and a birthday treat as well. Ted comes home next weekend and we'll have a family celebration.
Tis the season of celebrating, togetherness and giving thanks. Thanksgiving is my favorite because it's just so wholesome...unassuming...followed closely by every other holiday btw. I'm big on celebrations. The more the merrier.
Reading: Not enough. I've been in a slump. All summer I was stuck on forgettable, mediocre reads. Titles that are familiar, but stories that left little impression. Not pictured below. In that stack are some more alluring reads. The Need and Once More We Saw Stars and Save Me The Plums were solid. The others pictured, I didn't get to. I finally broke my slump with On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous. Vuong's words were raw and vulnerable. His story was filled with moments of tenderness and also moments of hard to read violence. I found myself rereading passages, sitting with the thoughts and images. Last week I picked up The Most Fun We Ever Had and it has finally hooked me in the way only a compelling story can. I find myself stealing away for chapters, thinking about what I'll read next, excited about books again.
Watching: Maybe too much. Binge watching is a real thing. A powerful addiction. I finally finished The Affair. I didn't much like the final season, but I loved the series finale. I cheered, I laughed, I cried. Then I looked up what I should watch next and found my way to the BBC series, Dr. Foster. I watched the first 5 episode season in one setting and I may have started the second if Ted didn't call and break the spree. We're all caught up on Succession too. I love a cast full of villains. I watched Unbelievable and became hooked by the strong female leads in Toni Colette and Merritt Wever. I really enjoyed Private Life and The Red Sea Diving Resort. They are both Netflix originals.
Listening to: The Hamilton soundtrack. I was lucky to recently see the musical. The performance was spectacular...in my top 10...maybe 5. The morning after, I was online looking for cheap tickets for the sold out run. Ha! Podcasts. Family Secrets is my favorite.
Eating: A lot of chicken since Lily is a self-proclaimed pollotarian these days. Without Teddy, I feel like I'm off my game a bit. He always had requests and that inspired me in the kitchen. I love to cook, but I love to cook for others. Last week I hosted a fall-themed dinner for some girlfriends and it was such a bright spot for me. I planned the meal around some recipes I wanted to try and also the precious last stop at the farmers market this season. I served sausage, sage and cranberry stuffed acorn squash, a creamy cauliflower gratin and my new favorite fall salad. It was the perfect combination of flavors and textures. It was a mix of baby spinach, sliced apples, smokey bacon, crumbled fresh feta, red onion, toasted pecans, dried cherries and roasted squash seeds topped with a mustard maple syrup vinaigrette.
Our new favorite side is a savory sweet potato mash. Good and good for us.
We're still working through the mother load of apples Lily and I picked on a beautiful fall day.
Comfort food: pot pie and lots of soup.
Enjoying: Baking for Ted's care packages, crisp morning walks, a new family photo wall, merino wool sweaters, a sassy bob for fall, Tigger suddenly becoming a lap cat, pumpkin seeds simply roasted with seasoning salt and oil, spontaneity, a dinner party in the middle of the week, scarves, a solid new pair of walking shoes, buying birthday gifts for Mike and St Nick gifts for the kids, Badger red boiled wool gloves, afternoon mugs of tea, the simplicity and ease of life right now.
This was one of my favorite days. Smack dab in the middle of fall. Cozy, homey, easy. I was the first one up at the crack of dawn this morning fortified with an extra hour of precious sleep. I woke up because I slept enough and I felt refreshed in a way that I haven't in some time. First thing, I indulged in my coffee and my book in peaceful silence and solitude. Well, save for Tigger who is my new book buddy. There's really no better way to start the day. A walk is a close second. Before Mike and I set out on the parkway, I put the spinach quiche I made in the oven and it was ready when we got home. I tried a new dough. All butter no shortening. It was nice. Mike's brisket has been slow cooking all day. The house smells delicious. I almost can't wait for dinner and all I have to do is mash some potatoes and steam some carrots. I roasted the pumpkin seeds I harvested from our family of pumpkins and then I put them back on the porch uncarved. I thought Lily and her friends would have their way with them last night, but they ended up at a neighbor boy's instead. I also made an enormous pot of soup for next week. In it are the last remnants of farmer's market produce from the crisper. It was my goal to use everything up. My Grandma Rosie would be proud. Heck I'm proud. I think it'll taste extra comforting because I sang my heart out to Hamilton while I chopped and stirred. Food is love. Food is memories. So is good theater and Hamilton was so good that I am sort of obsessed by it now. I was able to steal in a chapter here and there between chores and yard work today. This book has my attention and I am a much happier person when I have a book I cannot put down. Even though I have little idea what I'm doing, I get great satisfaction out of caring for my garden. It's so forgiving. Generous. I get so much more from it than I give to it. Next up is a hot shower something I feel extra grateful for ever since we thought our water heater was going last week. It was just the pilot light. I have a new bar of lavender soap. It's the little things I tell you. Little things like taking care of my house and my family. Self-care too. Being present and grateful and feeling deep down inside what a gift this day...this life is.
We woke to a world white washed. It's still snowing. It will snow most of the day. I love the first snow. I love the first snow when it doesn't fall in October. The bright spot is that instead of starting my day logging miles, I'm here to log words. It's something I intended to do all week and here we are on Thursday and well, it seems to be the story of this blog these days. Better late than never.
The same goes for Ted who came home this weekend for a visit (a long overdue haircut, a refreshing steam and a sleep in his own bed too). His first plan was to come home on the 6 a.m. Badger bus Saturday morning. I thought that was ambitious, but I knew he had a long list of things to do so I went with it. Before I left the house not long after sunrise to fetch him from the station, I decided to check on his whereabouts. That was wise as he was still cozy in bed in a dorm room in Madison. He caught a later bus and it was a bit of a fiasco to find him, but it's a story we laughed at all weekend. He came home and the first thing he did was get busy in the kitchen making a breakfast bagel. A breakfast bagel with a side of croissants. He eats well at school, but he misses home cooking and berries. We loaded him up on both. We scratched a hike at the Audubon because he really wanted to hit his gym.
The other thing he really wanted to do was spend a night at Windmill Beach. What that means is that he wanted to be cooped up in the cabin with family. It means he misses us. And it was a great 24 hours of uninterrupted family time. We made calzones at T. Bone's request, played Wizard (Lily has bragging rights) and cozied up on the couch to watch The Hangover. Lily was the last woman standing. The rest of us were snoring. I shooed Ted to my bed because imo it's dark, quiet, most comfortable. I slept comfortably in the living room and woke up with the sunrise. I was good with that because it was an amen alleluia moment. And then I went back to sleep to the sound of waves until a more reasonable rising hour.
The boys went to golf another of Ted's requests. Ashley and I took a walk. Lily slept. We all came together for breakfast including Mike who was north at the Wege cabin working on projects with his brother. We cleared what's left of the beach of adirondacks and kayaks. The high water this year has reclaimed dunes leaving just a little shore.
I suggested that Ted change his return ticket for Monday morning so he could get a night in his own bed and a little more time with his dad who was late to arrive. He agreed and the 4th ticket for this short visit was procured. It was a good idea though. We made chicken fajitas at his request and crashed in the family room for the Packer game.
He woke Monday morning after a really great night's sleep and we sent him on his way with clean laundry, a breakfast burrito and a big fruit salad. Also a couple dozen cookies my aunt baked for him, I will say that Ted finally knows just how good he had it. College is serious, dorm living is very cozy, life on campus is loud and crowded. And yet he's adjusted to it all and life is good.
It was good to have him home. I've really missed him extra this week. I got a little used to him gone. Then I quickly got used to him here. In some ways it's like starting over again. I keep telling myself that Thanksgiving will be here soon. Too soon. I'm not wishing this time away. Fall is my favorite and we've had such a beautiful stretch of October days. Every morning I walk through a different, more resplendent landscape in awe, energized and grateful. I trust that the snow will melt and there will be more walks before we close in on solstice. The march to darkness makes me feel light and I like it to linger.
Last night I put my head on my pillow only to find myself monkey mind awake. Now I lay me down to sleep, Slumber elusive even as I pulled out all my sleepytime tricks. I pray the lord my soul to keep. Every sound in the house at rest an irritation, a threat. If I should die before I wake, No heroics, but just enough energy to scurry down the hall and tuck myself into Ted's empty bed. I pray the Lord my soul to take. I finally slept dreaming all night of ghosts not in my house, but of the past. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Asleep while aware of the relentless wind gusting at speeds that sounded a challenge to even my house made of sturdy siding and strong cement bricks. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Asleep because I've yet to meet a ghost who scares me. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be... Asleep because I have respect for a formidable storm. World without end. Asleep. but not at rest. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Daybreak came too soon and did not usher in the sun. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. I'm awake, but dreaming of staying in bed all gray day long. Amen.
Life has been good lately. Full. We're settling into our fall routines This is my favorite time of year. October is the absolute sweet spot for me. I look forward to starting my days with a brisk walk and a podcast. It makes me crazy happy to stroll along the jewel-toned parkway...not hot, not cold. Just right. If only these Indian summer days could endure. But it all goes and too fast, and too soon.
We visited Teddy last weekend for Homecoming. It's been awhile since we went back for the festivities as alumni. We were there as parents this time, and I could feel the Badger connection even stronger now that we have a legacy. It's a different kind of pride. It was a much looked forward to 24 hour family reunion. It warms my heart that T Bone was genuinely happy to see us. After we dropped off supplies: healthy snacks, a batch of smores cookies and a few containers of his favorite dinner ready to eat, we made our way to State Street to buy Lily a little swag for the game. Ted scored her a ticker in the student section and the two of them headed to Camp Randall after we had lunch at the Nitty Gritty. It's been a long time since I had a Gritty Burger and it was as good as I remember. Mike and I made our way back to State Street to watch the game at Hop Cat and we were both perfectly happy and warm and not at all thirsty.
After the Badger blow-out, the four of met up at Memorial Union where we got a perfectly appointed table in Der Rathskeller. Ted ordered his favorite chicken Alfredo pizza and a giant pretzel for us to share. We played hearts and hung out in the warm, toasty, festive union. It was far better than taking Lil to a bar. We parted ways after dark. Ted went to meet up with friends and we walked all the way up State Street to the capitol. We stopped off at Argus for a night cap and to call an Uber to take us back to our off-campus hotel. It was only 9 o'clock, but it felt like midnight.
Lil wanted a hot shower and some quiet time so Mike and I headed to the bar where we made friends with other parents visiting for the weekend. We exchanged stories and bonded over being in the exact same spot literally and figuratively.
In the morning, we scooped up Ted for his first ever breakfast at the Curve. I'm glad we waited for a table because it truly is one of Madison's best breakfasts. Ted tried to order two pancakes, but Mary said not possible. They are enormous and thick and the size of a dinner plate. She raised her eye brows when he said one cake with two eggs, sausage, potatoes and toast but she put in the order and I could tell she was quite impressed when he just about cleaned his plates.
We came home with bags of laundry. Grandpa brokered a deal. I was to do Ted's laundry and then he picked it up this week and delivered it. Boy's blessed. Also grateful. I was too, because I wanted to get my hands on those sheets. He sent a picture that night of his chicken thighs, wild rice and asparagus plated for dinner. Be still my mama heart.
When Grandpa delivered his laundry Friday, he took Ted and Yash for more Gritty burgers and then he left them with ready to heat up containers of breakfast. Teddy loves Grandpa's breakfast. I'm pretty sure Yash does too now. Grandpa also loves Yash and his perfect British manners. I knew that he would pick his brain about Hong Kong, which is where he is from. Grandpa left just before the boys came from Minnesota and Indiana for the weekend. We haven't heard much from 711 Manning the past few days.
Friday my brother called and suggested happy hour. It's been awhile since we've been together and it was long overdue. Those impromptu Friday nights are always my favorite. We caught up, ordered Poco Loco and uncorked a couple bottles.
Then last night, Mike and I went out for a fancy steak house dinner. It was delicious and lovely and perfect after a day of yard work and chores. Tomorrow we are married 24 years. That is kind of hard to believe, but also beautiful and something to be proud of.
And if October is my favorite month, Sunday is my favorite day. The first day of the week feels more like the last to me and I love the endless possibilities it invites. This morning I was up early to have coffee with my friend who needed me this week and I wasn't there. I have tremendous guilt for not being there, but always better late than never. We cried, we laughed. We looked back and then forward and we both felt lighter after a few hours together.
The rest of today will involve a work out, some cleaning, a little cooking. Lily has requested mashed sweet potatoes and sauteed Brussels sprouts for dinner. I think they'll pair well with a mustard and leek pan sauced chicken breast recipe I've been thinking about. I have a beautiful leek from the Farmer Market this week. We'll FaceTime Ted before the night is through. And truthfully, I'll likely fall asleep in the middle of an episode of Succession. That is more a reflection of the fullness of life lately rather than a review of the series. I am really enjoying the show.
I'm looking forward to another week of October. More walks. Always books. Lily's golf banquet. Tickets to see Hamilton. More family time. Ted comes home Friday. Windmill Beach on Saturday. It's all good. Damn good.
I work part-time in the financial industry and am a full-time wife and mother. I am grateful for this balance between work and home every day and happy that I can experience the best of both worlds. I have boxes of journals dating back as far as I can remember and while I will never give them up, I think this will be a new and rewarding way to explore my voice.