Saturday, December 3, 2016

On Time, The Thief

This has been a rough week for me. I can't exactly put my finger on the cause of the blues I'm feeling as the list of potential causes is long and crowded. There is sad truth to the adage misery loves company

Yesterday it struck me that just a week ago my house was filled with family and my weekend booked with plans. It was a great stretch of days and nights, but I'm a girl who also likes my solitude so a relaxed weekend never gets me down. What hit me was the fact that it seemed like so long ago. Much longer than 7 days. It's that old nag time again passing like the summer breeze barely noticeable until it's gone.

How is it that we're here in the month of December? We're no longer reminded to be grateful, but rather gluttonous. We should eat, drink and be merry. And shop. Every day has a moniker now. Black Friday is joined by Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday and yada yada.

Lily reminded me about Advent calendars the other day. Specifically, where were they? At the store, I confessed. As I recall, they weren't that into counting down to Christmas with crappy chocolates last year so I walked right by them the other day at Winkies. Then she brought up the Advent tree. The one with a little box for each day that I used to fill with treats or tickets for treats. Oh Mom can we please do that one? I love that one! Take one guess what was I was doing the night of December first? 

I skipped that tradition last year. Not sure why. I'd saved some of the tickets from previous years and as I looked through them trying to salvage what I could to make my life easier, I was struck by how they'd outgrown so many of them. Cue the Kleenex. One of their favorites used to be Redeem to stay up an extra 30 minutes. Seriously, I'm in bed before they are most nights these days. They tuck me in. Family Movie Night was another hit. It's near impossible to get them to agree on a movie these days. She wants Prancer and her wants The Purge. Read Christmas books together before bedtime. Highly unlikely. 

Anyway...I got busy making new tickets because I'm a tradition keeper just like my Lil Bit. And, of course, I got into it. She came home from school yesterday bursting to open the box. I told her she had to wait for Teddy who I know is not at all into this anymore unless it involves food or cash, but I'm not letting him off that easy. It's what we do. He and I had the Santa talk the other day, but that's another happysad post. When Lily finally read the day's message, it was about doing for others...kind acts to spread Christmas spirit...things we can do for those in need, and I think she was a little disappointed that it didn't involve sugar or Starbucks. Unfortunately for her, there are many more of the giving nature in the next 21 days. Still we brainstormed a nice list and we're starting a new tradition. She needn't worry though because there will be peppermint mochas, pizza night and spa day too.

I let her open today's box before bed last night. It was a ticket for breakfast at the diner before picking out our tree. I knew she'd like that lots, yet she's still sleeping and he's not home from last night's sleepover. And it's looking like it may have to be lunch. That's OK though because she's going to want chicken tenders anyway.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

Working out tonight even though I really wanted to stay in bed under my covers with my cats and my book. I'm back to The Nightingale and still missing Commonwealth.

The first tree of Christmas. It's always my dining room tree. I fill it with my mom's collection of glass ornaments. The process is cathartic and the tree is beautiful even if it does look a tad crooked this year.

That Jessica has found some Christmas spirit this season. It makes me happy to see her happy. And it will make Lily happy to be invited over. Hint hint.

Watching This Is Us with my kids. It's our favorite. Yes, even Teddy's. It's such a quality show and every character is my favorite.

Walking. Walking while listening to The Moth. I'm seriously addicted to these podcasts. This week my favorite was Extraordinary Proof  told by David Walsh. Apparently, storytelling is not a lost art.

I noticed that someone scattered pumpkins throughout the woods for the critters. I had just thrown mine in the yard waste bin although I thought briefly about setting them out. Too messy I decided. When I got home, I pulled them out and left them for the animals. Sometimes acts of kindness are so simple.

Shopping with Lily this week for a new winter coat and for a friend's birthday present. This girl knows what she likes and wants. She tried on like 5 jackets and was decided. She put together a thoughtful collection of gifts for her friend. She has a generous spirit and loves giving almost as much as receiving.

Tomorrow she'll be spending the day in Chicago for the birthday party. They're taking a chauffeured car for the trip. That's a pretty awesome 13th birthday party if you ask me.

Monday, November 28, 2016


the weekend was full.
today i'm empty.
every year at this time as i'm expected to make the sudden shift from gratitude to joy,
i cannot help but feel a little robbed.
i'm a slow moving lingerer...a loller. 
i need to take my time and sit with the sadness.
likewise, i prefer to pause so as to savor the goodness.
this flip of a switch mentality is completely foreign to me. 
yet now that i'm here looking back at the times we shared over the past few days a bit of a blur...
a whirlwind,
i feel a little silly for being even the slightest bit blue.
it was a weekend long on fun.

on thanksgiving eve i watched the peanuts alone.
and i thought about how i used to watch it with my brother many moons ago, and then with my kids back before years were minutes.
yet i resisted the urge to wallow in pools of pity because growing up and out of charlie and the gang is normal.
so what's wrong with me?
no...don't answer that.
never mind.

on thanksgiving morning, i was the first to rise.
 i went right back to the television.
this time for the parade.
my mom always had it on in the background while she attended to finishing touches for the big feast ahead.
she loved it.
now i love it too.
i feel like it's my time with her.
it's our thing.
and i take what i can get.
i was excited to see that cats is back.
it was my first broadway show on broadway.
my dad took me.

when you're a cat, thanksgiving is just another day.
when you're missing loved ones and it's damp, cold and grey, sometimes holidays feel more like solemnities than celebrations.
that is until the rest of the house comes to life,
including your cousin who hails from the very streets you're watching on t.v.
 you put a quiche in the oven.
slowly the mood shifts. 
the house feels smells like comfort.
gradually the focus shifts from who is absent to who is present.

most of us bundled up for a brisk walk through the parkway.
always there is some activity before the days bachanalia.
it is as much a tradition as the parade, and driving over the river and through the woods, and turkey two ways.
it's a good tradition.
they all are.

another tradition is gathering on the deck for a group picture.
we can never see bodi and someone always has their eyes closed, but the photo is a treasured time capsule.
it's evidence: we came, we loved, we have much for to be grateful.

ted's latest obsessions are chess and vests.
i love anyone with passion.
he wore that fleece all weekend long (today too), and he played many matches with his dad and his uncle.
not just chess, but football and poker too.
i can remember when he was just a little shaver and he used to call it playing chest.
tell me that's not cute.
tell me he's not handsome.
tell me to order him another vest for christmas.

we walked out into the woods to spread some of cousin carol's ashes.
it was sabrina's idea and a good one.
my dad and step-mom were touched that she thought a good resting place for her mom would be in  their woods.
i believe it will be.

lily was chomping at the bit to help grandpa in the kitchen.
he loves that about her and he welcomes her despite the fact that he's rather territorial about his kitchen.
i didn't get any pictures of the feast, but trust me when i say that it was delish.

friday evening was girl's night out.
we had a date at a painting bar and we all loved being artistes for the night.
 lily felt under the weather and had to leave us early, but she really didn't want to.

we rendered our interpretations of an evening walk.
and although we all said we'd do it again, not one of us wanted to hang our canvases in our homes.

after painting, we enjoyed a lovely dinner of small plates across the street...
the stars of which were an arugula dip and lobster stuffed piquillo peppers.
mussels too, and the company, of course.
we drove back to meet the boys and a sleeping lil along the lake.
a number of houses were already decorated for christmas.
it made me feel cozy and happy.

saturday was another girl's day.
on the itinerary was a ladies lunch followed by a little theater.
we enjoyed our fare and the funky decor at the old pabst brewery before heading to see elf.
the musical was a welcome dose of upbeat holiday cheer.
i think i enjoyed it most.
my mantra for the season is definitely sparklejollytwinklejingly.

we came home for an impromptu, yet tasty soup party featuring mike's cheesy chicken fajita, my sil's winter minestone, my dad's squash chowder and my lasagna soup.
it was a strong, stick to your ribs showing.

after dinner, we played a quick game of wits and wagers with real wagers and some wits.
sabrina and i stayed up chatting into the wee hours for the third night in a row after everyone left.

so late that we didn't make it to early church.
we made it to 11:30 mass though, which was healing and touching.
we sang my favorite o come, o come emmanuel even though it wasn't listed in the missal for this day. 
i took it as a small sign.
we had just enough time to make a quick pit stop at gloriosos for lunch.
we had to go there in honor of carol.
i ordered the muffaletta pictured above in honor of her mom.
carol would always get this every.single.time.
now i'll always get it.
she would also eat every.single.bite.
i ate enough of it that i didn't have to eat for the rest of the day.

lily and i drove sabrina to the airport.
we got teary eyed as soon as we pulled away.
outside the terminal it was crowded with so many people parting ways...saying goodbye.
i knew we stood zero chance being the marshmallows that we are.
we put in elf as soon as we got home.
it was really good to laugh for 97 minutes straight.
it was also good to go to bed early and sleep for 8 hours.

we spent more time laughing than crying this weekend.
we looked at old photos and told almost forgotten stories and connected.
we ate good food, painted mediocre paintings, and told a few bad jokes.
we made plans: summer gathering at windmill beach.
new york sometime soon tbd for grandpa and the girls to see cats.
we are looking forward, but not forgetting from whence we came.
that's the challenge...the beauty...the precarious nature of it all.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

On Being Grateful

I'm the first one up this morning. Come to think of it I was the last to go to bed too. LUFU: last up first up. It suits me. I need a little solitude on days like today. Days that seem to arrive with an abundance of nostalgia and melancholy. This was my mom's holiday. She loved cooking her traditional meal and gathering with family and anyone who had no other or better offer. Everyone was welcome, and that always added an interesting and appropriate element to the feast that celebrates coming together to share our blessings. My mom was a big-time sharer. I was blessed for her model of open generosity and I'm eternally grateful for the great many things she gave and taught me.


I'm enjoying my coffee and watching the 90th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade just like my mom always did in between stuffing and basting the bird. I'm not responsible for too much for today's meal, which we'll enjoy with family at my dad's later today. He is the Thanksgiving master now. I have my mom's zucchini casserole ready to take. It's what remains. I'm grateful for what remains...for the memories of Thanksgivings past and memories yet to be made. Today. Tomorrow. Next year.


Last night my cousin arrived in the middle of the night. She missed her connecting flight and had to take a bus from O'Hare. I got up to welcome her and we stayed up with a bottle of wine. This is her first Thanksgiving without her mom and I hate to say it, but I know how much that sucks. Plain and simple. I'm glad she's here and I'm grateful I can be here for her. I miss her mom. I miss my mom.


Today I'll toast loved ones lost, hug loved ones here and celebrate my beautiful blessings.

Monday, November 21, 2016

On My Mind Monday

Half the things in life I wish I could remember and the other half I wish I could forget.

~ Ann Patchett

I finished Commonwealth. It was a quick read, but one that will stay with me for quite some time. I believe the word is linger. The novel was character-driven and every single one of them had redeeming qualities. It's the first time in ages I finished a book satisfied, but also sad that the story was ending.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

On Things Found

 First melted in an hour.

I don't normally turn my computer first thing on Sunday morning, but just before bed something shiny caught my eye. As I was coming out of my bathroom, the missing earring was in the walkway of my dressing room the length and width of which I had searched previously on my hands and knees twice. I smiled and said thanks. Thanks most for having hope. I knew I would find this earring, and that is so not me. Or is it?


Friday I found Ghosts on a random thumb drive tossed in a drawer. I really cannot explain that, and yet it makes perfect sense.

Yesterday I found a healthy dose of Christmas spirit. I think it helped that I woke to flurries. I think it's finally time to put away the flip flops. My switch was flipped and just like that I wanted to shop and bake and decorate while listening to my favorite Christmas crooners. It's just what I did too while the kids were out day and night with friends.


I haven't found my mom's diamonds yet, but I trust I will.

First batch of pumpkin donut muffins...they may last 24 hours.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

The sunrise. The sky was showy every morning this week and I was awake to admire it. Standing there watching the day dawn always allows me to start my day with the right amount of humility and inspiration. The pictures below were taken at the same time on three mornings.

Watching Lily swim. She has a command of the water I don't share. She participated in another meet this week, and she rocked it.

Belgian chocolate. Chocolate in general really, and knowing that another Whole30 is in the near future.

Dedication. Every night this guy is out there practicing both his golf and baseball swings.

The way everything waxes and wanes.

Fat squirrels. It means winter is coming and I am ready for it after an unseasonably lovely and warm fall. To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.

Everything about LL Bean's soft pima cotton long-sleeve t-shirts. 

This book and this reading buddy.

Bug time. It happens every morning at approximately 7:05. If I don't turn his bug on, he reminds me.

A long walk on Wednesday. I listened to two Moth podcasts...8 stories total and I stopped to take pictures. It's good to remember that there's so much beauty even in barrenness.

Moth podcasts and in particular Angels as told by Run of Run DMC. I have my own affinity for Sarah McLachlin.

Two of my muses...pretty in pink.