Saturday, December 29, 2012



Today I'm flying low and I'm
not saying a word.
I'm letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.

The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten,
And so forth.

But I'm taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I'm traveling
a terrific distance.

Stillness.  One of the doors
into the temple.

- Mary Oliver

Today I'm lying low and I'm watching the world turning white around me.
Snow has been falling all morning.  It's pristine, peaceful and perfect.
I have a clear head for the first time in many days and a quiet house.
The boys are celebrating T. Bone's birthday at a Badger basketball game.
Miss Bit and I are snuggling in and watching A Christmas Story.
When it's over, we'll shovel ourselves out and head for dinner with family.
I haven't left the house or gotten dressed in five days.
There are many things begging to be done,
but today is just not the day.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

T. Bone turned 12 yesterday.  Twelve is a milestone birthday and maybe just because it's the last before the teen years begin. He's been enjoying vacation days with little to no plans.  It's called winter break for a reason.  I'm grateful he's happy with that because Coach is still recovering from his lumpectomy and I've been down and out with the flu since Christmas morning.  Yesterday I felt well enough to get out of bed for awhile and spend a little time with the birthday boy.  So while Coach was paying taxes (ouch) and seeing the orthopedic doctor (ouch!), and Miss Bit was sledding in the neighbor's yard, T. Bone and I played Monopoly.  Playing Monopoly with him is like playing with my brother.  There is a whole lot of buying houses and then mortgaging to the hilt and he will only buy premier properties.  I was taking him down with my working class blues I'll have you know.  We were at an impasse because he wouldn't make any deals that would result in my gaining another Monopoly so when the call came that some friends were heading to the ski hill for the late day and eve, we were both grateful.

  He put on his new snowboard socks (thanks Grandma and Grandpa), gathered the rest of his gear and was ready to go in zero to ten.  I'm thankful for these family friends who already had a full load with their 3 boys, but they traded vehicles with another friend for more seating capacity.

 Coach came home without stitches and a good report.  Miss Bit came in from sledding with a little cough and a big headache.  We snuggled in to watch a movie and to wait for T. Bone to get home.  The boys returned just before 10:00 and pizzas were delivered shortly thereafter.  They were famished and grateful and exhausted.

All in all it was a good day and especially so for the one that mattered most.  Things didn't exactly go as planned, but that seemed to be the theme for the month of December.  We'll sing, eat cake and open presents tonight.  Presents T. Bone himself admitted he doesn't need.  After the last package Christmas morning - a much coveted new bat - he said, "Please tell me you didn't get me anything for my birthday.  I can't think of anything else I need."  That's the same kid who asked Santa for money for charity.  That's my boy.  What a guy.

Happy Birthday T. Bone. I am so proud and so grateful to be your Mom.  You are an amazing young man and I am blessed to share this beautiful life with you.

Monday, December 24, 2012

2 day pass

some may say there aren't enough hours in the day.
i would also add that there are too few in every weekend.
the past couple days were filled with more rejoicing than replenishing.
all good...too good.
miss bit's christmas concert moved me to tears.
the third grade filed in and all the boys and girls in miss bit's class were wearing santa hats.
i knew it was a show of support for a. who has lost all her hair.
the tears welled up and almost over.
my tipping point was when they sang ode to peace.
it did not go unnoticed. 
but tears of joy and hope are hard for me to contain.
the kids had friday evening obligations.
i tidied up loose ends and wrapped a mountain of presents.
coach was a big help in that department.
he is particularly adept at my nemesis: the perfect square, and also any odd shape.
i pride myself on picking out the perfect pretty ribbon and making no two quite the same.
i may have tabled much of my usual holiday baking, but i whipped up a batch of irish cream.
i know a hostess or two who will surely enjoy this festive treat.
the sleeping santa duo did not sample despite the way it appears fyi.

saturday morning i forced myself to get out for a few miles in the fresh air.
it was a gift i gladly received.
i cued up my book and lost myself in stegner's words.
then miss bit and i got ready for a very important date: an afternoon at the ballet.
this coiffing process took considerably longer than usual given her new do complete with many layers.
i don't do hair...not well.
grandma j. came with the finishing touch: a jingle bell headband.
this was probably my favorite production of the nutcracker.
the interpretation of the snowflakes was so blue and shimmery and beautiful.
the clowns always make me laugh.
the carousel was quite something too.
it was the first time either of the grandmas had seen the show and they both enjoyed it.
miss bit may have liked it a little more when she was 6 than now that she is 8.
she wasn't into the lack of dialogue.
oh, but i will try try try again.
i for one will be in the audience again next year.
i'll leave her attendance up to her.

after the show, we stepped across the street to share some holiday cheer and small plates.
and maybe some beer cheese soup, which you garnish with spiced popcorn.

we came home for cookies and cocktails.
kiddie for the kids and irish cream for the big girls.
the girls rolled oreo balls and had great fun dipping them.
i did not enjoy cleaning up the mess.

i was thankful for father t's words during his sermon sunday.
turning down the volume and the heat sounds like sound advice right about now.
after church, we joined family to celebrate christmas. 
give or take 23 people means many presents and much chaos. 
cookies and candy too.

while the weekend was good and full, i'm fighting this feeling of emptiness.
i am missing my mom.
i feel a pity party coming on when i see so many grandparents in the school gym.
my mom wouldn't have missed miss bit's concert.
she would have been at the nutcracker probably wearing her christmas vest.
this year i'm feeling this loss like it hasn't been four christmases passed.
there are reasons for this of which i am very aware and others i am trying to bring to light.
and yet i'm trying to be a light and bring the joy to my kids despite the fact that i'd rather cry than laugh right now.
it's exhausting and enigmatic, and just life.
it ain't over til' it's over, father t. said yesterday.
that reminded me of my mom's favorite phrase: it is what it is.
empowering and deflating at once.
but i survived the weekend...found some joy there...and will now leave it behind and move on.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

The Mayans were wrong.

Peanut for waking me up this morning with his playful antics.  I didn't set my alarm.  And not because I thought it was the end of the world and I didn't need too btw.  I just forgot.

The way the lake looked like a sea of moguls this morning.  The sun was melting the snow and all the bare tree branches shimmered in tiny icicles.

Christmas shopping with my daughter this weekend.  She was excited to pick out just the right gifts to give.  She is only 8, but she earns, saves and then spends her own money to make someone else feel special.  She is already learning that it feels just as good, if not better, to give than to receive.

I also took T. Bone to makes his purchases and I was impressed how thoughtfully he regards his options.  He's not much of a shopper, but he takes his time and trudges from store to store to ensure that he is giving a gift he can be proud of.  He too understands that the ability to give is the best gift.

The bell ringer at the grocery store singing Joy to the World in a voice so beautiful, that I wondered why she didn't have an audience.

Dinner A Love Story helping me to perfect my chicken noodle soup.  I credit the white wine and Parmesan rind with taking my soup to a new level.

A tin of Harney & Sons Cinnamon Sunset tea in the mail.  Merry Christmas to me!

Breakfast with Santa last weekend.  We celebrate this annual tradition with friends who are family each year.  We ran into another friend there and it was a nice surprise to have a little christmas cheer together before setting off on busy days.  The food was nothing to write home about, but the setting and Mr. Claus sure make up for it.

T. Bone sat on Santa's lap.  I think this might be the last year he fits.

Santa always reminds the kids, "Remember, Santa only brings what Santa thinks you should have."

Tomorrow Miss Bit and I are taking the Grandmas and Aunt Jess to The Nutcracker.  After the show, we will share some Christmas cheer before driving home along the lake to be dazzled by the light displays.  I cannot express how excited I am for this event.

Prancer Returns and popcorn this week.

Random Acts of Kindness.  A scarf for a friend just because.  Cookies and a mended pillow on my doorstep from a friend just because.  Holding more doors, giving more smiles and having better manners. 

Fresh spices.  Some people lose their minds in a shoe department or surrounded by spools of fabric.  The spice shop is my undisputed weakness.

We are no longer just dreaming of a white Christmas.  Voila!

The first batch of Christmas...gingerbread boys. By accident, some were dipped in chocolate head to toe. I am intentionally eating one of these mistakes for breakfast right now with a mug of cinnamon tea and I couldn't be happier.

The way Miss Bit bounces out of bed these dark mornings with a single mission: to find Fred.

Coach's surgery went well.  He is being a better than average patient, and he told me that I am excelling as a caretaker too.

Miss Bit is invited to a hat party after school today.  It is in honor of a friend who is losing her hair.  She is undergoing chemo to treat her leukemia.   Daily there are struggles and also triumphs, but I believe that the ending will be a happy one for sweet A.  Her journey has brought the class, the third grade, the school, the community together in inspiring ways. 

Reminding myself many times each day...don't let perfect ruin good.

Today I will take some lost time to attend my daughter's winter concert.  She woke with a smile today. She's smiling because she still LOVES her new haircut, she loves to sing and today is the last day before Christmas vacation.

We have no plans on Christmas Day.  It feels odd since we are usually celebrating all the way through T. Bone's birthday on the 27th.  I was a little cranky about it, but now I am excited to make homemade cinnamon buns and stay in our pj's all day playing games and watching movies.  We're going to make homemade pizzas for dinner and we're making the most of our quiet time together. 

Attention to the angle of repose.

And lastly, but certainly not in the is the winter solstice.  I am recharged by the shorter days this time of year.  That's because the loss of light seems to invite inward reflection.  I find clarity in the cozy contemplation.  Celestially speaking, this might be my favorite day of the year.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Outtakes of an Ordinary Day

This morning I woke up already out of steam.  I surmise it had a little something to do with being woken by someone at 4:00 a.m.  A snoring someone who had surgery this week and could not help it.  I decided that I would move to Miss Bit's bed since she was on the air mattress in our room.  She was sleeping there because Fred Ducked taped her in her room the night before.  She loves Fred, but was a little freaked out by his latest trick.  I forgot about this silly prank as I stormed into her room in the pitch black dark and walked straight into a web of sticky tape.  It sent me sailing, and maybe swearing too.

A couple hours later  T. Bone turned his nose up to breakfast: an English muffin with peanut butter.  All he had to do was look at me to smartly decide to eat it and say yum.  Miss Bit went down the same path.  I left her to eat her breakfast while I took T.  Bone to school.  Her place was clear, dishes in the dishwasher and she was playing on the computer when I returned.  That was fishy.  I asked her if she already ate her breakfast, and she answered emphatically (too emphatically), "Y!E!S!"  Then I looked in the garbage to find a perfectly untouched English muffin.  She looked like she had seen a ghost.  "I'm sorry," she said busted.  And I replied, "You should be. You lied and that's a sin." Nothing like a hearty dose of guilt to start your day.  She retreated to her room where I found her crying into the fur of her softest Teddy bear.  We talked it out and carried on with our day both learning valuable lessons.

After school, she bounded to the car excited to get a haircut.  On her wish list: a sassy chin length bob.  In route to the salon she sang Ode to Peace in the voice of an angel.  Together we marveled at the thunder snow and I felt so grateful for my new tires as the snow accumulated beneath us.

On the way home, she waxed poetic on the end of the world more curious than worried.  She carried on, "So wouldn't it be sad if a baby was born today and tomorrow the world ends and the baby was only one day old?  So what is the chance the world will end tomorrow?  Is it 50 percent, or 20 percent?  Or is it 10 percent?"  I told her it was zero percent and the proof of the impossibility was my shelling out thirty bucks for a haircut today.  "I sure wouldn't bother if I thought we wouldn't even be here to capture your cuteness in Christmas photos in a few days."  She responded, "True so true!  I do look cute!"

She's been enthralled with her reflection all night. I cannot say I blame her.


Today I have a long list growing longer of things I could and should do, but I cannot commit myself to any tasks or to dos until I do this.  I'm relenting.  Nothing will be right until I write.  I have been ignoring this truth the past week and I'm suffering for it.  It's just that everything seems to be taking a little more energy than I have even as I've given myself permission to take it down a notch (or several) this holiday season.  Despite my most concerted efforts to pare down the baking, cook healthy meals, decline too many party invitations, refrain from sending cards, attend church weekly, do less decorating and not overdue the gifts, I feel like there aren't enough hours in the day to just enjoy it...whatever it is.  The consumerism, the desire to fill our days and nights with tradition and togetherness, and the inability to be or do it all starts to suck the spirit out of me. I struggle with keeping our focus on the meaning of Christmas while also celebrating all the wonder and delight this season brings.  The messages of peace and goodwill are harder to hear it seems.  They get trampled by the frenzy and endless festivities.  It saddens me that there are times I  find it hard to believe in anything especially when I turn on the news to daily atrocities.  There is so much strife and discord.  I cringe when T. Bone asks me what caused the Sandy Hook School shootings or if we are going to be okay after hearing reports of the fast approaching fiscal cliff.  I stumble when Miss Bit asks me if I think the world will be ending December 21st or if  snowmageddon will prevent Santa from coming next week.

I took T. Bone to school this morning in the dark.  It was pouring rain.  After I dropped Miss Bit off, I drove along the lakefront and couldn't believe the waves.  It looked like the Pacific Coast.  For a minute, I fantasized about getting on a plane tomorrow and jetting off to some faraway place for the rest of December.  Not a warm, sunny island, but a cozy, quiet mountain cabin deep in the deserted woods.  Diana Krall crooned White Christmas.  My gaze was fixed on the white caps crashing up and over the break wall.  Some time today this rain will turn to snow and we'll be granted our winter wonderland.  I don't have a ticket to get out of here, but the next best thing might be getting snowed in. Paralyzed.  Unable to do.  Only to be.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Digital December

Words have been elusive.  Both exhaustion and joy turned angst are to blame.  I haven't taken many pictures, but here are the few I have...

Fire roasted tomato soup topped with a mini grilled cheese.  MMM...Mama Mia!

Walks along the lake...the city skyline.

We try to be good, but thank Fred for the reminder.

Candy cane cuticles.

After school at Starbucks.

Our enchanted frosting forest!

Someone I know is up to the sugar challenge.

A rare sick day snuggle.

Fred lit up like the Christmas tree.


Yes Santa, I'm sure that's what I want.

Of Course, I believe Santa!

Belly up.

Our littlest fan!

Fred Heffner.  Our resident lady's man out with the girls much to Miss Bit's delight!

Monday, December 10, 2012

On My Mind Monday

  • We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup.
- Buddy

  • Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are things we can't see.
- The Conductor


My girl woke up under the weather today.  We had to take a sick day.  She hasn't stayed home sick in years.  She slept all morning in my bed.  By the afternoon, we were prone on either couch in the family room for a double feature.  We love Elf and laughed as hard as we did the first time we saw it.  Then we watched The Polar Express, which is another family favorite. The timing was perfect too.  Last night she was asking me if St.Nick is real.  We still want to watch Prancer and It's a Wonderful Life, but they'll have to wait for another lazy day as my girl is perking up and about ready to peel herself off the couch. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

2 day pass

i cannot explain exactly what happened this weekend.
i felt happiness to levels i have been missing.
what's more...the good feelings didn't come and go.
i spent most of the weekend smiling...inside and/or out.
not frenzied bliss, but more calm contentment.
friday morning i met jess for a walk along the lake.
it was so nice that she had the day off and that i was not wigging out about my party that evening.
i love to entertain, but often i get a little psycho as the event draws nearer.
i have been known to obsess over all the details and perhaps to overdue it.
i made a concerted effort to simplify this time.
let me tell is all it's cracked up to be.
i focused on the stars of the show: my soup trio.
then i paid special attention to what i am best known for: my desserts.
i put together a simple cheese/antipasto tray for noshing and relied on my favorite bread store for a loaf to pair with each bowl.
i didn't worry about having the perfectly decorated house.
i had fun making the spaces we would gather in beautiful and comfortable.
it may have just been the first time ever that i was ready and waiting for the doorbell to ring to receive my guests.
my lovely, relaxed day set the tone for my night...they always do.

the evening was festive and joyful.
sharing my favorite things with some of my favorite people was the best gift of all.
saturday we enjoyed a slow start after a busy week and a late night.
the only thing i absolutely wanted to do was get our family tree.
and we did.
it felt a little off to head to a local nursery just the four of us instead of the festivities we usually share with grandma and grandpa at the farm, but only until we got the fat fir home and standing in the picture window.
i like enjoying the tree for as much of the holiday season as possible so i didn't want to put it off any longer.
something's got to give is in the same vein as simplify.
i recommend it as well.

saturday afternoon brought an impromptu pizza party with the cousins our way.
we woke up to find this sunday morning:
a note from fred and...

 a toliet papered tree.
crooked too.

we went to church despite the rain and the strong urge to hit snooze and ignore the alarm.
i am grateful.
i don't like to miss church during advent.
coach and i walked to get a coffee while the kids were in sunday school.
we sat staring at what should be a skating rink.
sadly it's a puddle for the second time in the past month.
at least the rain north of us turned to snow today.
we went out for breakfast.
that garners great excitement around these parts.
we tried a new place...a very good place.
a place that has been featured on the food network as a matter of fact.
it was really the only meal i ate all day.
the only one i needed to.
so instead of cooking dinner, i decorated the tree with miss bit after coach put the lights on.
she listens intently when i tell her the stories about all the ornaments on the tree.
i know from whence they all came and from whom.
someday she will too.
there were a few solemn moments...some hugs...and smiles.
the boys came around to marvel at her beauty once the trimming was taken care of.
we may pretend we don't like it, but i think maybe we do.
now we are all watching the packers play and lusting after the flurries swirling around them on the field.

the boys have been cuddled up on this chair for all the day and now the night.
coach has been like the paparazzi snapping pictures of them for his new instagram.
but then they are used to that.

i am hoping the happiness of this weekend doesn't leave our home this week.!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Magic in the Air

Last night was a special one for me.  I was throwing my annual soup n' sip gathering, which in its own right is a good thing...soup, bread and wine shared with good friends is always a boon, a boost, a buoy (I'll stop there, although I could carry on in adoring alliteration.)  I usually throw this party in the fall months, but it happened to fall during the holidays this year, and I think that's where it will remain.  It was a spirit lifter for me to plan, prepare and anticipate the arrival of this evening.  It felt like a gift to go from this store to that store for the just right ingredients, to arrange the most festive flower (or berry and greens) arrangements, to chop, stir, chiffonade and spice. I made stocks: turkey for the Butternut Squash and Sausage Chowder my Dad is famous for, and chicken for the Fire Roasted Tomato, which was a palette pleaser.  Of course, it was.  It is topped with a crostini and a heap of fine white cheddar and then baked to a golden brown perfection.  There's something that never gets mundane about tomato soup and grilled cheese.  My Cream of Mushroom with Brie is one I plan to tweak when I make it again, but it was a nice contrast to the meaty chowder and the acidic, spicy tomato.

After dinner, we gathered in the living room to exchange gifts.  I asked everyone to bring three of their favorite things...small tokens to share with three friends.  Small and favorite, which as you might expect with eight women came in all shapes and and diverse, but not one duplicate.  We each drew three names and took turns handing out our gifts.  I was impressed by how thoughtful all the gifts were and entertained by the stories behind them.  It felt like kismet that all the different gifts seemed to somehow end up in just the right hands.  I drew the name of exactly the friend I had in mind for the emulsifier, EVOO and balsamic vinegar.  I ended up picking the right friend for my book and reading journal gift.  Everyone received something beautiful, useful or decadent, and some all three. I believe everyone left feeling filled up, cared for and cherished.  They are.

I am just not sure I can wait a whole year to do this again.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Gratreful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

O Come O Come Emmanuel.  We sang it in church last Sunday.  It is one of my favorites.

Spinach salads with hot bacon dressing this week.

This chorus...this song.  They sound like angels.  Beautiful inspiration.

I've been cooking up a storm for my annual Scary Sisters Soup n' Sip.  I roasted my romas for a fire roasted tomato number that is a show stopper.  Miss Bit walked in the house after school the other day and said, "Yum...what's for dinner?"  The answer was not what she was looking forward to.  It was leftovers.

Finding my lost earring. It was not my most prized, but it was a special one nonetheless.  It was hiding behind a picture frame when I went to dust. Guess I haven't cleaned in awhile.

Ted's winter concert.  The choir sounded so good that Miss Bit even turned to me when they were halfway through their first song and said as much proudly.  Any Dream Will Do from Joseph was this fan's favorite.

Friends who invite you out for frozen yogurt after the show and then treat you since you conveniently left your wallet at home.

Ski club is on for tonight despite the fact it's been in the 50s and 60s in the last week. Someone I know and love is very stoked.

I'm off today to get ready for my party tonight, but before I tackle my to dos...I'm going to meet Jess for a morning walk along the lake.