Monday, December 30, 2013


When I say that the last week was a whirlwind, I know I'm not special.  It just strikes me especially since I made a concerted effort to simplify this year.  And while we did slow down, time didn't get the message and seemed to move even faster as if that is even possible.  We had little to do Christmas Eve day but were still scrambling to take a much needed walk, pick up a last minute gift and get our cupcakes iced.  My little elves volunteered for the task when they heard me grumbling in the kitchen, and they did a fantastic job.  It reminded me that it's OK to ask for help, to ease up a bit on the reins and to not allow perfect to ruin good.

We were in our usual pew by 3:35 for 4:30 mass so the last minute scrambling seemed to be in vain until the choral concert started and peace came over me like a warm blanket.  I closed my eyes and soaked it in so grateful not to be hurrying in late to SRO after jockeying for a parking spot.  It was a gift to be able to sit in solemnity.  I vowed that we will always be early for this my favorite mass of the year.

After a spirited rendition of Hark the Herald Angels Sing, we traveled along Lake Drive admiring the beautiful light snow and all the twinkling lights.  We passed a couple UPS trucks still making last minute deliveries, and it struck me as rather ridiculous. I made a mental note to finish my holiday shopping early in December lest the focus be more on the gifts than the birth.

We arrived at my brother and SIL's to quite the LL Bean scene: roaring fire, windows all trimmed in wreaths, candles lit, and champagne or kiddie cocktails served.  We broke from our traditional tenderloin and potatoes meal, and instead enjoyed a menu that represented favorites from all of our Christmases past. It was a trip down memory lane and also decadently delicious.  Sometimes change is good.  Time honored traditions are the glue that holds the family together, but adapting them is what keeps the family moving forward.

Of course, the kids were eager to open gifts.  And my brother who is the biggest kid of all was anxious for them to dig into their piles.  Wow!  Just wow.  We are all blessed beyond measure.  So much thoughtful generosity.  Too much.  I will continue to strive for less even as I concede it is not a popular premise.

Before the end of the night, T. Bone was snoozing on one couch in the sun room and his Grandpa on another.  Miss Bit was starting to doze off in a chair beside the fire.  It was 2:00 even if it felt like it couldn't possibly be a minute after midnight.  It was time to pack up so we could be snug in our beds before Santa's arrival.  I don't like when good things come to an end.  Christmas Eve is my favorite night of the year so of course I would prefer it last forever.  Yet I know the spirit of kindness, togetherness and goodwill that is Christmas can last as long as we bear it.

We came home to pour egg nog and handpick cookies for Santa, and chop an apple or two for the reindeer crew.  Then coach and I sat beside the tree for a few quiet moments and took a few deep inhale more joy and exhale a bit of sorrow.  They are so closely woven together for me even on this beautiful night.

I set my alarm and felt a a slight tug at my heartstrings.  Gone are the days when the kids wake us at 6:00 a.m. too excited to sleep another single wink. Pang  Now we wake them, have time to brew coffee and retrieve the camera before they roll out of bed.  Santa didn't bring T. Bone his Jack Lalane juicer, but he seemed quite pleased with the things he did get.  He was especially happy with his new guitar.  Miss Bit was beside herself over her bow and arrow, and we quickly had to do an etiquette lesson on who and where it is appropriate to aim.  The cats have more fun with the boxes and bows than is legal.  They think every gift is for them.  They are really just our little furry children.  These quiet family moments are the most important to me and I need to carve out more of them in the midst of the hustle.

We barely had time to bake off the cinnamon buns I mixed, kneaded and rolled the day before.  The visions of a leisurely family breakfast quickly had to be dashed because we were running late for our next celebration.  I am learning that there are often times when something in life has gotta give...on Christmas morning it was this new tradition.  Next year, I'll make it work I tell myself.

We spent Christmas afternoon and eve at my in laws where the whole family gathered.  There were more gifts.  I hit the favorite things trifecta: a kitchen gadget, a neck bauble and a book. We enjoyed more good food and games too.  We introduced the family to Wizard, and just as we suspected, it was a big hit.  The best gifts are those that encourage more togetherness, and we all received plenty of those this Christmas.

So while I'm glad it's was a good one, I'm thankful for the bright spots and memories, and now  I'm gearing up for 2014.

two day pass

you may have heard read that we now have a teenager in the house.
we celebrated t. bone's milestone coming of age on his birthday friday with a small surprise party.
the theme...his favorite people and his favorite eats.
1. buffalo wild wings
2. french fries
3. flamin' hot cheetos
4. sour cream and cheddar chips
5. sour patch kids
6. kit kat bites
7. rocky's pizza
8. rocky's breadsticks
9. el calderone pizza
10. garlic bread
11. heath bar cake
12. kopps custard
13. a 7 up bar.
do your teeth ache just reading that list?
does your stomach hurt?
i made a salad too for those of us who like to eat the healthier food groups.
he felt special being the center of attention and excited to get his first phone.
he has been texting his uncle all weekend fully embracing the idea of umlimited.
saturday we all embraced the term chillax.
the kids played lots of mine craft.
coach and i binged on homeland and leftover pizza.
until it was time to gather for a pre-bowling dinner.
it was our first time at the lanes in months and coach was on fire.
i was my usual inconsistent, but we had fun all the same.
especially since our partners finally made it for their first time.
sunday was intentionally another day slow to start.
we all have the post holiday hangover that comes from burning the candle at both ends for days.
managing a workout both saturday and sunday felt cleansing.
my brother and sil came bearing chili before game time.
healthy, yummy chili made with ground turkey and plenty of spice.
never mind the cheesy rolls or wienie wraps.
we settled in to cheer the packers onto a last minute victory.
when they left, the kids went back to playing mine craft and coach and i cued up another episode or three of homeland.
i made the kids come to bed with me at midnight.
something tells me we are all in for rude awakenings come january 2nd when it's back to stricter schedules and healthier menus.
until then we will indulge and enjoy what is left of this holiday season...all that remains of this year.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Happy Birthday Theodore Michael!

You are still sleeping as I write this little birthday letter.  It appears that you turn 13, and suddenly sleep is good for you.  Well, you are a growing boy.  I mean young man.  You hover over me now, and are gaining on Dad in both height and shoe size.  In just a few minutes...8:12 to be exact which you reminded me last will officially become a teenager.  And I meant what I said as I tucked you in: it was one of the very best days of my life.  Becoming your Mom was such a beautiful gift...a gift I treasure every day...all 4,745 of them!

I can still clearly remember not just the day, but the moment you were born on this same snowy day in 2000. It truly was life changing for me to become a become your Mom.  Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral was playing in the background.  The Irish Lullaby was interrupted first by Dr. Trebian saying "It's a boy!" which I already so strongly suspected that one could say I knew.  Then you cried followed by Nanny.  I'm crying right now those same tears of joy. Daddy whispered over and over, "We have our boy!" with a slight sense of disbelief.  It felt like we had been waiting for you forever even though you were a week early.  In those first few moments, we shared the sense that we were just getting to know you and yet that we had always known you.

We had already been awake for 24 hours when you were born.  We never went to bed on the 26th.  My water broke close to 11:00 p.m. We didn't sleep on the 27th either as I recall.  Joy is a most powerful source of adrenaline. When we weren't introducing you to your excited family and friends, we were just staring at you in absolute awe.   I couldn't believe you were mine.  Just like I cannot believe you are 13.

I confess that at times I am nostalgic for the baby days when your chubby cheeks were ruby red and eager to be kissed.  I miss your hoarse and lispy toddler voice always asking why? But why?and that signature toe headed mop of hair.  I feel a longing when I picture you in your Yankee uniform sporting your first buzz cut up at bat...a little boy on a big field.  This spring you'll move up to THE BIG field.  Almost a decade older, but still playing ball and likely wearing the same crew cut.  So things change and yet they stay the same. You'll always be my little boy.  Time marches on I guess it always will, but deep inside my heart time stands still. Still in those defining, sustaining moments.

It's an understatement to say I am proud of you Teddy. You are an amazing young man in every way. While it is true as your Mom I may be a bit biased, I cannot say the same of others who know you and know you to be a young man of great character, mind and spirit. Your future is bright, and I am blessed to be behind the scenes of your journey to see what trails you blaze (and not just on the ski slopes)!

So on this milestone of a day I want to leave you with this one wish.  My wish for you is that you seek and find your passions in life, and then live them to the fullest without forgetting where you came from or where you ultimately are going.

I love you always and forever and to infinity and beyond T. Bone,



Monday, December 23, 2013

2 day pass

it was a busy weekend packed full of friends and fun.
there is an itty bitty part of me that is looking forward to going to work today just so i can sit and my desk and sip coffee in quiet.
no cookies to bake, or carols to sing, or packages to wrap.
most of us had lots of messy fun at our friend's annual margarita cookie night friday.
although none of us had margaritas, and miss bit wasn't even there as she was off skating away again with aunt jess.
saturday we were up early for our annual breakfast with santa.
often the hour drive north is harrowingly snowy.
saturday it was just like a picture.
in fact, coach stopped several times so i could take a snap or two...
and with my new i phone, which i am loving so much more than my old droid.
merry christmas to me!
friday's forecast was for freezing rain which made the trees appear to be painted in pristine white ice.
we met our friends at the resort and we all enjoyed time together before divulging our wishes to the big guy.
he set them forth with his usual: remember santa only brings what santa thinks you should have.
the little g's came home with us for the rest of the afternoon so mom and dad g. could attend to those lists.
the 5 kids spent time sledding before retiring to the family room for pizza and the hunger games.
we adults eventually gathered around the christmas tree for a little holiday cheer before calling it a day and night.
the phone woke us very early sunday morning to tell us there would be no sunday school.
i looked out the window and saw that the weatherman was right.
i couldn't tell where our yard ended and the road began.
we decided it would be a snow day despite the fact that i badly wanted to be in church for the last sunday of advent.
i spent most of the day baking.
i finished up my gingerbread boys and squirrels (what? doesn't everyone make christmas squirrels), made a batch of sugar cookie cut outs and miss bit's favorite peanut butter cup kisses.
coach inspired a family cookie decorating contest.
the kids tied.
they wanted to eat their decked out trees but i wanted to look at them for awhile.
miss bit and her friend played outside for hours in the snow until their fingers were frozen and their cheeks as red as rudolph's nose..
t. bone built a mini ski hill and jump with coach's help.
most people i know don't snow blow their yards, but where there's a will there's a way.
coach made pot roast with fingerling potatoes, cherry tomatoes and olives.
it's a curtis stone recipe.
at first coach was questioning the combination of ingredients, but quickly he saw the benefit of the acidic and briny elements and he took control of the cassoulet to my delight.
it was the best pot roast i have ever tasted.
and no it had nothing to do with the fact that i hadn't eaten all day.
after dinner, we headed to the basement for wrapapalooza.
i'd say we beauted up 100 gifts.
working at the ping pong table makes the task so much easier to tackle.
coach's patience does too.
at midnight, i finally sent the kids to bed and curled up with my cat exhausted from a weekend well spent and a heart full of holiday spirit.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Winter Solstice

The December solstice is a holy day for me.   I celebrate the shortest day of the year.  I choose to view the extended exterior darkness as a time of brighter interior light.  The short days and long nights invite soul searching and reflection.  We hunker down, and layer up until we slowly emerge energized and healed.
 There is something mystical and deeply spiritual about the gradual return of light as day gains on night.

  I do not begrudge winter...I embrace it.  The season's deep freezes and the world whitewashed invite dormancy and quiescence until the sun once again ascends high in the sky to warm and thaw and awaken.  The cycle of life as evidenced by the change in seasons fills me with comfort and awe.  When my eyes are open, I witness miracle after miracle.  These natural revelations then open my heart.  They open my heart wide only to break it as I once again feel time fleeting.  It is sad, but true because the world is such a beautiful place and life is so short.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

Snow and sledding.  We are enjoying the snowiest December since I can remember.

Skating too.  The school rink is already flooded. T. Bone has visited it once and Miss dreams about doing so daily.

A quiet family night last Saturday in the midst of the hustle and bustle.  We went out for our favorite pizza, took the long way home while enjoying the holiday lights, and then played a board game.  It was perfect.

Traditions especially this time of year.  Sunday family dinner is one we enjoy year round.  Aunt Jess joined us this week.  Before we ate, we decorated gingerbread cut outs.  Even T. Bone got in on the fun. I've been mixing this same dough since I was T. Bone's age so it's tradition. I have just recently acquired a taste for it though.

I finally finished The Telling Room. I can only give it a 2.5, but there are parts of it that I am still mulling over like this on the truth of storytelling:

So was that to say that mystique won out over the truth every time?  All the best stories and strangest dreams metaphorically seemed to exist on the apparently nonexisting second floor of the Quinta, didn’t they?  In the end, it wasn’t so much that there was an alternative narrative – there always was – but it came down to belief: Which one did you want to believe.  Which one suited you best?  Or, perhaps most to the point: Which one told the story you were already telling yourself?  

Coach, Miss Bit and I watched Pride and Prejudice this week.  As I remember, the book is better, but it's such a treat to find entertainment that is appropriate for all ages.  I will be rereading Austen's second novel soon.

Moroccan oil.

Miss Bit had her second swim meet this week.  She took first place in her 50 yard freestyle heat.  She was proudest of all.

T. Bone's report card was his best yet, and the last few were hard to beat.

I took the kids out to shop for their gifts in the last 48 hours and I found both experiences to be warm and fuzzy.  They care and they want to show it.  There is a sense of pride in earning, saving and then spending their money on tokens they personally pick out for loved ones. He entered stores he normally wouldn't think of shopping in.  She carefully counted her crumpled up dollar bills, and the cashier was patient even if the patrons behind us weren't. I'm thankful she didn't notice.  They receive so much, but there is nothing like the good feelings that come from giving to others.

eos lip glosses although I wish they'd make an unscented option..

My Christmas cactus is blooming.

Minecraft central aka our dining room table where they sit side by side and scheme.  I cannot remember the last time they played so nicely together for so long.

A new Brussel's Sprout recipe.  Dice a couple slices of bacon and brown in a skillet.  Remove and add halved sprouts, a slight drizzle of EVOO, and pat of butter.  When slightly browned, add a chopped shallot, salt and pepper and a generous glug of chicken stock.  Let simmer until the stock evaporates and sprouts are tender.  Serve topped with bacon.

Winter solstice is tomorrow.

This post on sadness versus happiness and anger.  I've been retreating into myself as I fend off this funk.  This came at the right time.

Sitting with the idea that we don't change because we have insight, but rather we change and then have insight.  This timeline is what makes change so hard.  We just have to do it.  The understanding comes after.

T. Bone turns 13 next week.  I cannot believe that my son is almost a teenager.  I'd prefer he not grow up and just stay with us forever, but I'm incredibly grateful for the beautiful young man he is becoming.

Thursday, December 19, 2013


Whatta week it's been!  Something tells me you may be having one too.  It seems like the whole world is running rampant - trying to find the perfect gifts, wrap the perfect presents, make perfect confections, throw and attend the perfect parties and have the all around perfect Christmas when really the best part is just sitting before the imperfect tree with a hot toddy and a few classic crooners caroling.

And speaking of carols, Bing was belting out I'll  Be Home For Christmas yesterday just as the doorbell rang.  It was the UPS guy delivering a package from relatives on my Mom's side.  I accepted the box and then quickly shut the door because I couldn't contain the grief I felt washing over me.  It moved through me and I became a heaving, sobbing, shaking mess in a moment.  A puddle on the other side of the door. All I could think was that my Mom wouldn't be coming home for Christmas.  No revelation intellectually, but emotionally still jarring and upending.

I'm not going to fib and say that this year I'm filled to the brim with Christmas spirit. I feel it at times...many times...but there are equally as many times that I'm simply going through the motions.  It's not just me though. I've commiserated with many friends who are feeling the same : little to nothing...numb.  I think it's because we have strayed from the true meaning of Christmas.  Just this morning I was watching GMA, and they aired a segment questioning whether or not it's acceptable to overindulge our children in the name of Christmas.  One mother was an emphatic yes.  One expert was a resounding no.  We've lost the meaning she warned.  Christmas is about giving and togetherness, she waxed.  I waned.  The last I checked, Christmas was about the birth of Jesus, and the grace that is ours because he was born only to give his life for our salvation.  So yes, it is about giving, but not the latest and greatest of things...of ourselves.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

3 New Friends

I have great expectations that I will complete at least a weekend's worth of baking and wrapping in just hours today. That being said, I am short on time to blog, but I simply must make the time to share the experience we just returned from this snowy morning lest it lose its luster. It was a morning that begged us not only to stay inside, but to stay in bed too. I knew we couldn't as soon as I saw the unplowed roads and inches quickly accumulating. I feared that volunteer turnout for today's poinsettia delivery would suffer. We signed up to deliver the plants and Christmas cheer to members of our parish community who are home bound or confined to nursing homes at Miss Bit's urging. I thought of all the Grandma's and Grandpa's waiting for us and knew a little snow could not dash our plans or their hopes.

We were greeted by a parish center abuzz with volunteers, and I felt proud to worship with these people who have such kind hearts and generous spirits.  They committed.  They came. They delivered.

We set off with cards, books, plants, prayers, and hosts in our Santa hats to pretty familiar territory.  Coach set us up with a trio of erstwhile parishioners who live in the village I grew up in.  Our first visitor was waiting for us in the lobby of her apartment building.  At first I thought she was eager to see us.  Then she took the plant, handed us some banana bread and declined a visit, and I surmised she was eager to see us go.  Only we stood talking with Doris in the lobby for 10 minutes before she asked for communion and then finally said goodbye.

Allen was waiting for us in his apartment, and was very welcoming although we did stand and talk in the hallway.  He thought the plant was lovely and talked about having his reader read him the book because he has macular degeneration.  He gave us handshakes and a blessing before we left.

Our last stop was Florence in the high rise next door.  We were told that she was shy so I was a little nervous that she might not even open the door.  She did, and she invited us in.  She was so sweet and slight, and reminded me uncannily of my Great Aunt Charlotte.  We had the nicest visit with Florence.  It ended in warm hugs for all of us and then she tried to slip Miss Bit $.

As we approached the lobby, we saw Allen in the vestibule.  He was waiting for us because he was so touched by our visit that he wanted to give us a gift too.  We did take the bottle of sparkling cider he offerred.  He walked next door in the snow and stood waiting for us for 20 minutes so he could thank us again.  We were all beautifully touched.

This is what Christmas is all about.  Goodwill and kindness are free, yet often in short supply. Generosity is the gift that keeps giving.

Miss Bit and I decided that we want to share some baked goods with our new friends. And as we add friends to our list, I have to add batches to my line-up.  

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Checking In

I was up for hours in the dead of last night.  Insomnia is such an anxiety junkie.  I tried every known tactic of diversion, yet I kept circling around the same worries. Fears are so much scarier alone in the dark.  There is nothing worse than the rest of the house or block sleeping soundly while your own mind races and roams.  I finally fell back to sleep just before it was time to get up.  You know that drill...right?  That makes for the kind of entry into a new day that I find a little abrupt.  It leaves me akimbo.  Nothing a few cups of coffee and a little time here won't remedy. I'm already laughing about the lunch I packed T. Bone: two kinds of crackers, clementines and a candy bar.  Not my best effort, yet still much better than the things many of his friends bring.  Then I went on to pack Miss Bit a lunch even though she wanted hot lunch today.  And packing her a lunch is no small feat.  I've come to realize that she's not so much picky as she is particular. Tell me you know the distinction.

I'm just happy I don't have to leave the house today.  Coach and I shopped yesterday from 9 o'clock in the morning until almost 9 o'clock at night with an hour break for lunch and a wimpy 15 minute nap in the afternoon.  We made a dent, but have a ways to go.  It was exhausting both physically and spiritually.  I love to give gifts, but this year the consumerism of Christmas is weighing heavily upon me.  It's piggish to buy more when we all have so much.  Wolfish too. Christmas shopping has not been an exercise in civility.  Patrons can be cold and greedy. Associates can be aloof and even surly.  It furthers my deep down feeling that this is not what it's all about, but then we know that even as we continue to ignore what is always true: our actions speak much louder than our words.

Today my actions will include baking.  I haven't started a batch yet and I'm not exactly sure how far I'll get, but the kids have started asking after their favorites and that's all it takes.  I usually end up making about 10 different kinds of cookies.  We all have our requests, and then my inner Martha kicks in and I feel the need to round out the choices so as to make a pretty, balanced platter.  Really my cookies are not the most tedious or fancy, but they taste good.  They taste like my childhood and I guess that's why I do it. I'll also whip up some Irish cream. It's so much better homemade than store bought especially if you use good whiskey.  It's all about the Jamesons. I use Paula Deen's recipe, but I should get my mil's.  Her Irish cream is my favorite.  I keep the bottle she gives us.  The bottles I make I like to give as hostess gifts.  Really who needs or wants another set of festive spreaders or coasters or glass charms?

Later today I'll roast a chicken and maybe some potatoes for dinner.  Roasting anything brings me such a sense of immediate earthly calm.   First the sight and then the smell.  Ultimately the taste.  And it's the gift that keeps giving because a pot of stock simmering away on the stove the next day is the most extraordinary of elixirs.  I plan to find time to finally finish The Telling Room too.  How I have struggled with Paterniti's work!  I've got less than 70 pages now, and just now the story is flowing for me...the pages are flying.  I think it was just not what I thought it was going to be. Errant expectations can be the most stalwart of road blocks.  Over the weekend, I finally finished Sense and Sensibility.  I've been involved with Austen's first novel since July.  Life and faulty equipment are to blame, and just maybe the fact that I have the tendency to read five to seven books at a time.  I'm no Janeite, but I rather loved her take on the rules of inheritance and may continue on chronologically through her works. As an English major I'm ashamed to admit I've only read Pride and Predjudice and Emma. The movie is on hold for me at the library.  If I am lucky, I may find time before dinner to watch Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant and Greg Wise as Elinor, Marianne, Edward and Willoughby.  I think I can entice my movie loving Miss Bit to join me. Who knows...if I get her started at 9, she just may become a Janeite.  There are certainly worse things to be.

Well, after rereading this entry I see that I really must get busy.  Today's list is a long one...a satisfying one.

Monday, December 9, 2013

2 day pass

the snow didn't come until sunday, but t. bone had his first ski club trip friday after school.
he came home exhausted.
miss bit was over the moon to have a date with aunt jess.
the girls went out for dinner and ice skating.
lil came home with a super-sized purple rhino named henry.
thanks girlfriend!
at first i felt a little badly that i took a rain check.
but i could tell that miss bit was more than happy to have a little one on one time with jess.
frankly i found it sweet that she wanted her all to herself.
saturday t. bone was up and out the door early for a friend's bar mitzvah service.
he's got a cache of yarmulkes in every color of the rainbow now!
i took lil out looking for things to put on her christmas wish list.
it's awfully tough when you don't want for much... much except a bow and arrow like katniss and a pony like picasso.
i had to remind her that santa is not authorized to bring weapons or pets.
astutely she added that if you do not ask, you will likely not receive.
i couldn't argue with that.
thankfully we ignited a few more reasonable desires as we perused the aisles.
my brother and sil joined us for dinner.
coach made the yummiest jalapeno poppers.
they were wrapped in bacon.
he made sinful queso and homemade margarita mix too.
then we carried out from a fave mexican place nearby.
si es verdad...miss bit is now a raving fan of the steak taco.
i didn't tell her tys (told ya so!)
it was snowing when i woke sunday morning.
the kids went to sunday school and we went for coffee and bagels.
we met up again for church where we were happy to see our inspiring father t.
lil added $5 of her own money to the food pantry collection and urged me to sign up to deliver poinsettias next week to home bound parishioners.
she only needed to perform one act of kindness for the day, but kindness is kind of contagious and irresistible.
we spent the rest of the day at home watching the snow fall and fall.
except the kids went to the sledding hill and then brought friends home for hot cocoa and dinner in that order.
hot cocoa topped with whipped cream, marshmallows and chocolate syrup...a meal in itself.
miss bit redeemed her advent ticket for her choice dinner.
she chose well: homemade mac and cheese, grilled pork chops, broccoli and applesauce.
it was still snowing when we went to bed.
the world seemed so full of peace thanks to the blanket of white.
the weekend was full of moments of peace and solitude, and moments of joy and togetherness too.
it was a keeper.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

Miss Bit had a date with a girlfriend Sunday.  She was so excited to spend the afternoon together.

I completely understood her excitement because I had breakfast with a college friend and lunch with a high school friend the day before.  I was equally as happy to be in the company of such good friends.

T. Bone went to work out with his Uncle.  He is working on 6 pack abs.  After they worked up a sweat, they went out for hot wings.  Guys.

A sweet and tasty gift from a friend between my door this week. She is always so very thoughtful like that doing little things to touch my heart.

Coach for putting the tree up the same day we got it (a record) and getting the lights on within 2 days of that (another record).  I think he wanted to fast forward my Christmas spirit.  It worked.

Ted was home in time to help decorate the tree and he did so of his very own accord.

Big Boy burgers at the Kilowat.  Now if only they had the Swiss Miss.

We won a gift certificate to our favorite pizza parlor in the church raffle.  We never win anything in the church raffle.

Frasier firs.  We ended up with balsams the last couple years, but these are the best for lots of ornaments. We are now in the category of lots of ornaments and I love them all.

Watching Hostages with T. Bone on Monday nights.  He is so into his little cache of dramas.  I remember feeling like a big kid when my Mom let me watch Quincy and Murder She Wrote with her.  He is almost 13, and technically a big kid, but forever my little boy.

St. Nick came last night.  All the kids were happy to see full stockings this morning.  And they were full to overflowing because they are so well behaved.

Fred, our Christmas house elf (I just like saying that), is back much to Miss Bit's delight.  She has been waiting.  Searching.  Hoping.  Maybe even praying.

This sentiment because I do...I prefer winter and Fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape — the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show. ~Andrew Wyeth

I finished and loved Glass Castle for the second time and started Wharton's Summer.  I get a kick out of the irony of starting this classic on the cusp of winter.

Both the kids are invested in good, engaging books right now.  That makes me happiest of all.

I'm almost finished with The Telling Room.  I must tell you...I have struggled mostly due to the tiresome footnotes and journalistic flair of this telling.  I want more juice and less pretense.  Paterniti has yet to compel me even as I want to try the Paramo de Guzman, travel to the Castile region, and drink Ambrosio's house wine.  Maybe it's because I already love cheese, wine and Spain.

My step-mom and cousin are in Hawaii for the next week.  They love Hawaii. I love them.

Advent.  Calendars.  Candles.  Sermons.

T. Bone and Miss Bit have a new common interest (well, new to him)...Mine Craft.  They have set up shop at the dining room table where they sit side by side and game.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Christmas Chi

Coach and I got the lights on the big tree last night.  Now we really are the Griswolds. Well, not really because we only use white lights around here.  And no inflatable Santas sit on our lawn.  Usually, he takes this light business on solo.  My Mom used to say there were three times every year she and my Dad almost divorced: when they put up the tree, put on the screens or put on the storms.  I have heeded her warnings in spite of the fact that I suspect these seasonal tasks had little to do with their split.   We got the job done quickly and without a single snarky comment proving that we make a pretty good team.  I lit a favorite I always save unlit from year to year... and then we sat admiring our perfect tree ablaze. It smelled so good...tree and candle...that I decided I'm done saving candles if you know what I mean.  And I'll always have at least one real tree.

Miss Bit and I will decorate the tree after school today.  She gets out early and T. Bone has plans to spend the extra free time with friends probably just because he doesn't want to help.  I have plans to make her a festive snack and tell her all the stories about the the ornaments we unbox before we hang them on the tree. It's an oral tradition this passing on of tannenbaum history. The forecast hints that this rain may even turn to snow by afternoon so, perhaps, we'll cozy in for a viewing of Elf or A Christmas Story.  I'm really upping the ante here.

I found Advent calendars yesterday at one of my stops.  It was the first thing she asked me when she got in the car after school reminding me to never underestimate the importance of the little things.  They matter big. I know it.  You know it too.

I've got a few other things on my list today.  Mostly making more lists for the upcoming weeks.  Also roasting a turkey breast.  We'll have a quasi Thanksgiving feast tonight because I didn't get my turkey fix last Thursday.  Plus the bird cooking to perfection in the oven smells almost as good as that frasier fir candle.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

We Gotta Do What We Do

The sky is spitting today.  It's a misty, cloying condensation that makes the air thick and heavy.  A small part of me wishes the temperature would drop and turn this mess to snow.  Big, fat beautiful flakes is what one expects this time of year.  Some of us even long for it.  The car pooling, errand running part of me is happy not to have to contend with the white stuff.  Also the cynic in me who knows the pristine and peace of a snowfall turns drab grey and gross all too soon.

There's nothing wrong with grey though.  Grey is good.  I love cloudy days best.  It's the perfect muted backdrop to show off the white twinkling lights all over the house today.  I have them strewn on trees and wreaths and boughs.  After we did the bulk of the decorating Sunday, I turned them all on and turned off every other source of light.  It really was beautiful and serene and festive.  I'm trying to catapult myself into the Christmas state of mind.  I'm tired of talking about my lack of spirit so I'm just doing what I know we do come December. I'm taking my own advice.  I'm acting the way I want to feel, but I'm sad to say it only works short-term.  So then I find myself listening to that little voice in my head that says : one day at a  Wow, so much easier whispered than wrought.

Sometimes I feel like I fixate on the weather and the seasons more than I should...more than is healthy.  Yet there is no denying that the outside conditions affect my inner temperature and barometer greatly. The time of year is so closely tied to my emotional calendar.  My gossamer skin is finer than ever, and my heart simultaneously filled with joy and aching every day of December.  It's exhausting even before you add in celebrations and concerts and too many carbs.  It's the same for so many of us I know.

Last year I tried to pare things down and focus on the things that matter most to me.  I made more time for the people, gatherings and traditions that brought me the most joy.  That decision brought much relief.  I didn't send cards.  Didn't get many either, but with our proclivity toward social networking that is no surprise.  I baked fewer batches of cookies, said "no" to invitations that didn't lift me up and "yes" to those that did.  I tried to look at shopping like treasure hunting, and found more amusement in the experience despite the few very impossible to buy for people on my list each year. I was going to forego Advent calendars this year since those little chocolates usually get eaten during breakfast, but then Miss Bit asked where they were yesterday.  I told her I was sorry, but I didn't get any.  She apologized for bringing it up and said, "I'm not trying to make you feel bad.  I'm just making sure we do what we do.  Ya know?  We gotta do what we do."  I tell you that girl is my mini master of ceremonies.  They were sold-out at both stores I stopped at last night.  I'll try a couple more today because that is important to her.  That means it's important to me.   We gotta do what we do...ya know?  I know.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

The love of my family.
Happy day of togetherness yesterday.  We spent the day at Grandma and Grandpa's and were treated to a delicious spread, although the kids were completely satisfied with the turkey and mashed taters.  They really have this feast mastered.
A home.  A place to feel safe, taken care of and inspired.
Nature.  It is in the wildness of the world where I always feel so big and, yet, so small.
Kids who are grateful.  Thoughtful and kind too.
Sun and stars and seasons.  Morning and night.  The gift of each new day, the holiness of every night, and the reminders of each season.
Generous friends who lend ears and hands and hearts.
Ideas and innovation.  The way we are always evolving as individuals and as a community.
Vitality and health.
Inspiration to live and do good and be good.
Now.  Today.  The desire to be present.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.

W.J. Cameron

Share your gratitude with all you touch today.  Don't count your blessings...cherish them.  And don't think twice about a second serving of mashed potatoes and stuffing drenched in gravy.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Right On Cue

I've started this post half a dozen times.  I'm not sure exactly what I want to say.  I woke feeling happy and grateful today right on cue.  Cute Little Red was patiently waiting for his breakfast.  I took him some nuts, seeds and fruit, and he had his own feast.  He preferred the pear.  Gobbled every slice up.  Then I made the girls pancakes and bacon, and sang along to carol after carol.  Miss Bit had an impromptu sleepover last night.  I'm in a yes mood.  An up yo.  I sang as I cleaned up breakfast and made meatballs stuffed with fresh mozz for dinner tonight. They are beauts.  A crowd pleaser too when placed between a garlicky toasted hoagie.  Jess is coming over after work. There will be wine.  Dinner.  Games too perhaps.  Maybe a tear or two. The holidays are hard for her too, but that's her story to tell.

As the morning wears on, I'm feeling a tad sad and a bit nostalgic.  My Mom loved Thanksgiving.  It was her favorite holiday so I always find myself missing her more painfully right about now.  Right on cue.  She would have been at the market when it opened first thing this morning, and be busy in her kitchen right about now. She despised shopping and crowds and having to wait.  Patience was not one of her virtues, but she had many others that more than made up for the one lacking.  She'd come over tonight too.  Probably just for a little cheer because she'd be up at the crack of dawn stuffing that bird Thanksgiving morning.  Her table would have been set on Sunday.

It's been six years since we celebrated Thanksgiving at her table.  I cannot wrap my mind around that.  Right on cue time marches on and yet so much of my heart is filled with the past.  Longing, and not just for my Mom, but for other loved ones lost or not present for one reason or another.  Therein lies the sadness.  The down yo.

So as December is fast approaching, I'm reminded that the joy of the holidays is shared with the sadness.  In many ways both large and small it is the most wonderful, magical time of the year.  At times though, the traditions, memories, merriment make me melancholy and blue.  There is no other time of year that I find myself so often smiling through my tears.  Today is simply one of them.  

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Today I'd Be Grateful For 30 More Days Of November

This morning as I sat surveying my yard and sipping my coffee, I tried desperately to focus on these first peaceful morning moments.  There is no other time of day when my cup feels this full.  I'm not meditating...I am practicing being solely in the moment.  I'm not praying...I am paying reverence and feeling grounded, shored up and lifted at once.  It's difficult to keep my mind from going where it wants to go: to all the coulds and shoulds of the day ahead.  During this five minute span, fifteen if I'm lucky, I seek to notice things and honor the day.  Then I often end up here because I want to capture these feelings of contentment and gratitude.  I want to share them.  Celebrate them.

This morning I looked up to see at least a half dozen squirrels.   They were still sleepy in the now barren branches of a tree and tucked in tail over body.  It warmed my heart to realize that their tails are really built in blankets.  It wasn't snowing, but every so often a random flake would waft onto the now white ground.  The yard is covered in snow.  The snow is covered in tracks.  It's a virtual legend for the critters who call our yard home.

There are ski tracks too.  T. Bone decided to hang up his snowboard and give skiing a try this year.  Last night he put on his gear and tried  it out in our hill-less yard.  I would say he's a tad eager.  And determined. Ah, but he's waited so long to hit the slopes again.  This is the earliest we've had snow in years so I'm hopeful for a long and stellar ski season.

He came home from his guitar lesson last night and started strumming away.  I recognized Winter Wonderland and Jingle Bell Rock.  It sounded great, but out of place.  I don't know what it is with my internal clock and the calendar this year.  They are not in sync.

It's snowing now.  So fine are the flakes they are deceiving to the naked eye. Yet I can see it's almost winter. I'm listening to carols. Vince Guaraldi's Skating is sounding through the house.  The holidays are here I can hear. Thanksgiving is this week and then the countdown to Christmas commences.  I know it, but I don't feel it.


Monday, November 25, 2013

two day pass

we were a family of three this weekend.
coach headed to deer camp with his father, brother and nephews.
ted was invited too, but he had a party to attend Saturday.
the theme was candy...need i say more.
i think it was probably for the best.
i don’t see him handling the lack of running water for his nightly shower well.
or the sound of many men snoring in a small space.
they probably wouldn’t have enjoyed listening to him sniffle either.
the boys got a cold, and he's rather gender typical when afflicted.
we had our usual pizza night friday, after which t. bone took his before bed shower and passed out with the help of nyquil.
after swim practice and morning workouts, we three met grandma to see catching fire and eat popcorn for lunch.
i was lukewarm on the film choice, but i left with the intention to get my hands on a copy of mocking jay.
i don’t think i can wait for the movie release to find out what happens.
we took ted to his bat mitzvah party and came home to play wii.
miss bit was practicing archery inspired by katniss herself.
i opted for a dance off that left me sweaty and sitting in front of the fan.
the only song i received more stars for than my 9 year old was a barry white classic.
it figures.
after church, the better part of our sunday was devoted to football, hanging out and holiday decorating.
it felt strange and too soon, but then we woke to snow this morning and it felt more right.
hopefully it melts soon so coach can light up our outside too.
coach came home and headed straight for the shower, the kids played football in the yard and i started miss bit's choice dinner: pork chops, applesauce and rice.
my brother and sil stopped in for a little end of weekend before dinner cheer.
they declined a last minute dinner invitation.
i blame the rice a roni.
at the end of the weekend, we were all looking forward to a short week, lots of time together and a day to be extra thankful for all of our blessings.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

The sirens that sent us to the basement Sunday morning did not announce any tornadoes.  Not here anyhow. My heart is heavy for our neighbors to the south who were not so lucky.

Finally starting to feel some Christmas spirit.  I heard a holiday commercial jingle the other day and was forced out of denial.  It is mid November and the holidays are fast approaching.  I have been resisting not in a bah humbug way, but more of a I don't want it to come and be over way.  I'm an anticipation junkie.

Christmas music...the first step.

I spent most of Sunday in bed. It was stormy and we were all tired from weekend sleepovers and late night parties so it was a perfect day to cozy in with my cats, books and glut of recorded shows.  I was guilt ridden, but happily so.  I rose only to go to my in laws and then cozy into their couch for football and then family dinner.

Miss Bit didn't even call home from her Saturday night sleepover.  She had a blast and didn't think to miss us, but I think she was glad that she decided to bring Allie and Ellie after all.  She and her BFF, coincidentally, have stuffed animals named after one another.  I think that's sweet.

SNL.  I think it's finally got its groove back.

Allowing myself a couple hours to watch a movie one morning this week.  It was an entertaining diversion and I was extra inspired to be productive the rest of the day.

Clean closets.  I did the first sweep.  There will be at least one more.

Gooey grilled cheese sandwiches with regular American cheese on good sourdough bread.

T. Bone's choir concert this week.  They really rocked it.  I got chills during a few of the lines they sang from Home.  They also sang Dust in the Wind and Joy to the World.  I doubt they know who Dylan or Three Dog Night are, but the audience of parents and grandparents was certainly nostalgic.  When he came home inspired, he got right on his guitar to practice.

The Big Chill.  I've got to see that again.

Coach is enjoying a guy's weekend in the north woods.

Miss Bit is completely engrossed in The Hunger Games right now.  She started reading a classmate's copy at school last week.  I relented and picked it up from the library for her.  I haven't read it, but Coach has and thought it was ok.  Plus she's seen the movie.  But still I worry.  Now she wants a bow and arrow for Christmas.

I woke up to snow flurries this morning.  It made me feel happy.

I am going to decorate my dining room tree tomorrow.  It's the one on which I display all my Mom's ornaments so it's a little emotional for me.  I have a chat with her while I trim away, and I'm in need of a mother daughter heart to heart.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Dear Teddy and Lily,

• Speak smartly. Never underestimate the seductive power of a decent vocabulary or the impressive power     of good grammar.

• Don’t swear: it makes you sound uneducated and bitter. There are many more intelligent, descriptive, expressive words than the 4 letter variety.  Please use them.

• No put downs. We rise by lifting others.

• Be kind. We are all just walking each other home. (Ram Dass)

• Have fun. Explore. Create. Taking time to live life and have rich experiences will only inspire your work.

• Be nice to yourself. Value your mind, body and spirit. The way you treat yourself sets the standard for others. You teach people how to treat you.

• Be nice to others. The world is a small town.

• Ask questions. Don’t believe everything you hear (especially on the Internet).

• Keep an open mind. Don’t believe everything you think.

• Listen. Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.

• Think you can like the Little Engine That Could. Optimism is the very foundation of courage.

• Don’t gossip. Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss    people. (Eleanor Roosevelt) Be great.

• Read every day. Everything. Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.  Books expand our horizons and our minds.

• Be open to new experiences, places, people, foods, ideas. It is when we step outside of our comfort zones that we grow.

• Remember you have choices. One of the hardest parts of life is deciding whether to walk away from relationships, tasks, trials, dreams or goals, or try harder.

• Choose carefully. You become like the 5 people you spend the most time with, and what you do every day matters much more than what you do every once in awhile.

• Disagree, disapprove, dislike, but do not hate. Hate. It has caused a lot of problems in this world, but it has not solved one yet. (Maya  Angelou)

• Forgive yourself. Forgive others. We all make mistakes. Carrying a grudge holds you back...down.

• Don’t worry. Worrying is like praying for what you don’t want.

• Find the good or interesting in everyone you encounter. Everyone you will ever meet knows something  you don’t. (Bill  Nye)  Let them be a lesson or a blessing.

• Be thoughtful and have a warm heart. People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. (Maya Angelou)

• Steer clear of envy. Comparison is the thief of joy. (Theodore Roosevelt) Jealousy is an ugly sin.

• Be realistic. Life does not have to be perfect to be wonderful.

• Be a voice not an echo. Be a leader not a lemming. Blaze your own trails.  Stand up for yourself and others.  Be uniquely you.

• Walk away and say no from time to time. You don’t have to attend every argument or party you’re invited to, or share all you know or think.

• Make your own fun. Only boring people are bored.

• Be.Here.Now. Live all the moments of your life. The present is our greatest gift.

Your Mom who must be reminded daily to live by these very rules.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

2 day pass

the weekend was full.
i am saying full in an effort to not say busy.
busy is an ugly word with stinky airs in my book.
busy sounds like an arduous chore.
full sounds like a beautiful choice.
it was so full that i am just now finding a moment to write about it.
i almost skipped it because come tuesday morning i am thinking about the next weekend not the last.
but is was good and full and so here i am.
i am here because i want to remember how we enjoyed dinner at a different table each night.
friday was shabbat dinner with friends.
saturday we celebrated a belated birthday with family.
sunday we shared an early thanksgiving feast with more family.
so we certainly felt grateful for good food and blessed by the company we kept all weekend long.
that is the perfect november state of mind: thankful...
full of thanks.

Monday, November 18, 2013

On My Mind Monday

Tonight as we passed a store called Three Wishes, she mused,
That'd be nice.  Hmmmm?  I'd wish to fly, to have my own horse and for peace on earth. I'd want my horse to live forever and the peace to last forever. 
I realized that my wish list is a lot longer and much less possible.  Hmmmm.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

The garlic pizza at Via and Coach for choosing it as his birthday dinner spot.

He liked all his birthday presents lots!

Pot pie with root vegetables.  The kids thought the turnips and parsnips were potatoes.  Coach didn't.

Finally putting my Door County cherries to use.  Coach reminded me that he prefers cherry cheesecake on his birthday.  I will never, ever again buy a single can of cherry pie filing!

The kids spent time making such beautiful, special cards.  I was touched and they weren't even for me.

The used book store.  Miss Bit and I brought in 2 bags of old books and left with some new to us books.

Lots of exercise this week.

Our first snow.  It was just a dusting, but it was pretty to watch the snowflakes dance and twirl outside my office window Monday.

A dinner date with friends tonight.  We've been trying to coordinate this all fall.

Miss Bit has her first official slumber party tomorrow and she's really excited.

She had her first swim meet yesterday too!  She swam in four events, got two firsts, a third and a fourth, and had so much fun!

The joy that comes from their joy.

Performing little acts of kindness.

Rich hot cocoa topped with enormous marshmallows.


Green tea and oatmeal for breakfast.

Inspiration in the most unexpected places and things.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Calling in Sick

It is only 9:00.  I already made and then unmade my bed today.  I did so to tuck in a sniffling, slightly feverish Miss Bit.  She's staying home sick for the first time in I can remember today.  After a dose of meds, she came down for a little breakfast  : a piece of cold pizza leftover from last night's birthday celebration.  Coach turned 46 yesterday.  In the sweet card she made her daddy she wrote,  "You look 20 really!"  And that reminds me...the other morning we were watching two deer in the yard from the breakfast table.  One was a girl and one was a boy.  The doe was grazing and giving the buck the stink eye in between bites while he ogled her the entire time. Miss Bit commented on their interaction, which prompted me to suggest the buck wanted to play.  To that naivete she said, "Mom, I'm pretty sure he wants to mate."  Fortunately the white bus had to leave for school before our yard became the Discovery channel.

So at times 9 seems so young and vulnerable, and at other times it seems old and wise.  The one thing that is a constant with this girl is the absolute sweetness of her soul.  What a gift it is to know and love her.  And to be her nurse too.  I'm calling in sick from errands and other to dos today to stay right here and take care of her.  There's nowhere else I'd rather be.

Monday, November 11, 2013

2 day pass

this weekend was...
a festive friday night.
happy hours to jettison us into the weekend.
a lazy saturday morning.
challah for camel's eyes, and hgtv, blogs and books.
a come what may kind of day.
boys leave in their best for a bar mitvah.
to the trails with my girl where the wind grows colder as we log miles.
warming up over bowls of chicken pastina topped with buttery crackers (me) or pasta heaped with parmesan (her).
for her, always pasta.
and truckloads of parmesan...the good stuff.
shopping the afternoon away for a birthday present and nothing in particular.
except an antique key that she needed to be white and metal and hers straight away.
we found it and for $1.
at our final stop
in a random bin.
3 to choose from.
made me look like the rockin' mama i am.
kfc for dinner.
putting your fried chicken desires out on the www is a powerful thing.
sadly, it was not as scrumptious as my childhood taste buds remember.
at least i won't need to challenge my arteries for another 25 years.
a quiet night.
in a freshly clean house -
thanks to miss bit who was my awesome after dinner assistant.
she thought cleaning toilet bowls was fun.
you should see her bathroom sink.
a hot, long shower.
dreamy lavender soap and creamy lavender lotion.
soothing, sleep inducing.
early to bed.
early to rise.
a sunday of homesteading.
sunday school cancelled.
t. bone home and alone for the first time all weekend.
leaves and laundry,  and lizard cages and grocery lists.
chores...yes, but with gratitude and purpose and satisfaction.
taking good care and with great love.
family dinner...the star of every sunday.
not necessarily because of what we cook, but because of what it signifies:
togetherness, fellowship, communion.
comfort and celebration too.
just like the weekends we look forward to every week.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Secret Languages

I'm up early this Sunday morning, and I have the house just the way I like it at the start of the day : to myself and quiet.  Yesterday Miss Bit and I hit our favorite trails.  I was feeling cranky, and I knew that time with her out in nature would lift my spirits.  We dressed for the wind we could hear howling outside our windows, but it was a southwestern wind : warm and without a bite.  It didn't feel like deep fall, but it sure looked like almost winter.  Naked birches, bare oaks and uncovered maples lined the paths looking so exposed and fragile next to their thick needled pine neighbors.  We held onto our hats when the wind whipped and roared through the forest.  I closed my eyes and listened to each gale build and then crest over the trees and I pictured a typhoon.  That is what it must sound like I decided.  I said more than one prayer for the people in the Philippines. The barren trunks creaked and moaned as they swayed back and forth and forth and back.  It felt like we were eavesdropping on ancient, private conversations spoken in languages we will never decipher like whale song or dolphin speak.  A lone towering trunk acquiesced and ended up on the forest floor.  I understood immediately why they are called widow makers.  It was loud and close enough to scare Miss Bit so she took off running and snagged her toe on a century old root that snaked across the path.  She went flying and landed in such a way as to get the wind knocked out of her and scare her even more. After we huddled together for a few minutes on the edge of the ravine, I asked her if she felt better.  "I just feel so bad for that tree," my Miss Tender Heart confessed. While consoling her, I caught a glimpse of a doe and a buck cavorting on the other side of the ravine.  It is the rut so that could explain it, but it also makes me wonder what we miss by always moving, going, seeking...what we miss by not stopping and being still from time to time. We  are always on the quest...hunting, tracking, searching.  What if we just wait and see what comes to us, or notice what is already here?

She climbed the tower for an above the canopy view at my request and then we headed down to the beach at hers.  While she built a cairn and searched for heart-shaped stones, I looped a quick trail just to keep moving.  The irony of the fact that I walked straight into the path of a young buck was not lost on me as I hurried along my route going going going.  We were few feet apart..  How many?  I'm not certain.  I'm horrible with distance.  I came to an abrupt halt when I saw him.  The kind that messes with the laws of motion so I was all limbs- akimbo- for a moment.  A moment in which he moved not away, but toward me.  He eyed me long enough for me to feel a little entranced is his molten stare.  I felt humbled by our silent conversation. And then he simply turned and sauntered off not the least bit spooked  When I met Miss Bit on the beach, she was just excited that she found a stone for my collection.  It may be one of my favorite hearts too.  We walked down to the trampoline trees so she could bounce for a few minutes.  We talked about the marvel of it all. The way the trunks grow horizontally out of the bluff, the way the changing tide leaves shelves in the sand, the way we have witnessed this place change from season to season, the way the trails are different, but always beautiful, the way being here makes us feel connected...connected to each other and everything.  The way that when we are here we share our own secret language.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Grateful Friday

Today I give Thanks for...

Finishing Half Broke Horses, so now I am committed to The Telling Room, and only the Telling Room.  I hope to finish it this week.

A new pair of my favorite ever gloves.


A night of Wizard.  It's a fun card game that is best with a group.  I love games, but I've never been a card shark.  This game has me hooked.

Finding Bodi.  My Dad admitted after the ordeal that he would have stayed until he found him.  I feared and also understood that because I believe in dog as man's best friend.  Cat too.

The family cave.  The four of us camped out in one room last weekend.  It was cozy and comfortable.

A regular plain vanilla week.  Schedule changes screw me up.

New Bogs for Miss Bit and Zappos for free shipping.  We ordered and returned numerous pairs before getting the right fit.  Who would have thought my 9 year old would need a women's size 8!

80's radio stations especially on grey days while traversing country roads.

A stock of apples fresh from the Door County orchard we visited, but they are going fast.

Finally watching Eat Pray Love even if it did take me all day.  I'm still thinking about this line: Americans know entertainment not pleasure.   I liked the book better than the movie, and I only kinda liked the book, but I was in the mood for a chic flick.  I thought Julia Roberts was fabulous though.

T. Bone has three friends over right now.  They ate a bag of chips and a batch of cookies.  I'm about to put pizzas in the oven.  I have a new found understanding of growing boys.

Handwritten notes from two friends and two family members this week.  The art of the handwritten letter is not lost on me.  I appreciate it.

Little flakes started to fly after Coach and I finished our walk yesterday.  It was the perfect night for casseroles (baked spaghetti for them and tuna noodle for me), which just happened to be hot and ready when we got home.

Miss Bit and I snuggled in to watch Bee Season this week.  It was a tad bit deep, or obscure, but she found the meaning.  I was impressed, yet not surprised.

Coach has a birthday coming up next week.  Time to celebrate!

I'm feeling unsettled this week, but in a good way.  Like I'm asking the important questions and listening for the answers and then taking them to heart.  That's how change happens.  Change is hard and also cathartic.



Thursday, November 7, 2013


  • I didn't make my bed this morning. I didn't open the blinds either. It was as dark as a cave at night when I left for work this sunny morning. I left the room in such a state for the comfort of my cats. They love curling up in the uunmade bed. It's their favorite right up there with teaspoons of tuna. I figured that just because I couldn't stay in bed all day didn't mean they had to up and attem too. And I really really wanted to stay in bed all day.
  • The other rainy night I tucked myself into a corner of the public library to read while Miss Bit belted out Aladdin melodies next door. I was so comfy folded into the chair listening to the pitter patter outside that I fell asleep for 10 or 30 minutes. I hope I didn't snore. Or drool.
  • I am boycotting Facebook. I still have my account, but I'm staying away because it has had a negative affect on me.
  • I have been trying to get through Sense and Sensibility since late summer. First I started reading the Austen classic, and then I started listening to the audio version, but I soon discovered that I cannot do so when I walk. It's become my commute entertainment. My commute is like 8 to 12 minutes 3 days a week, and therein lies the problem.
  • I would really love to be friends with Jane Austen
  • Yesterday I carved the 3 leftover pumpkins on our porch. My sole intent was to get each and every seed for roasting. I succeeded. Then I proceeded to burn them in the oven.
  • Technological changes have preempted me from getting my photos publishable without help from my IT guy. This has been a major source of discontent and disconnect for me.
  • Despite all the fancy pants pizzas we ordered last weekend (The Fungi, The Green and Gold, The Pesto...), Thursdays pub pizza was the tastiest.
  • I'm glad my friend Rose is moving back to town. I'm glad my friend Rose is moving back to town with joy in her heart. She left for California with an achin' in her heart. Apparently, joy trumps the ache.
  • I am going through serious Wizard withdrawal. I may have to host a card night this weekend to get my fix.
  • I get teary eyed when T. Bone plays his guitar.
  • I love trips...near, far, here, there, everywhere...but I am so happy to be looking forward to a quiet couple days at home this weekend.
  • We watched The Ring II last weekend. I can't really explain why after seeing the first one the weekend prior. It was two hours of my life I'll never get back.
  • I am craving KFC chicken.
  • The boys, Peanut in particular, haven't let me out of their sight since we've been home. At first it was sweet, but now it is a tad irksome.
  • I have scary intuition. 
  • I'm already so excited for St. Nick to come and I don't even get a stocking anymore.
  • I kinda love the song Royals.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

For The Record

I have been shying away from this space lately.  It's not because I am at a loss for words. Never. I always have something to say.  At times, I just wonder who I am speaking to when I hit publish.  Last week my friend called to ask me if the quote I published about being wounded was directed at another friend or possibly at her.  I was a little surprised.  I forget at times that I have readers.  The truth is the words just spoke to me when I read them the night before.  I fell asleep thinking about that line and it was still with me when I woke the next day.  The words resonated with me about no one in particular, although the more I mulled it over, I have to confess they are fitting for any one of us.  All of us.

I try not to be passive aggressive when I share here.  It's not my nature, nor my intent.  I don't think it's personally healthy or fair to the people I know and love in my real life even if they make me crazy at times.  I don't think it's right to use my blog as a platform to air my grievances and then act as judge or jury.  Do I go cryptic sometimes as I wallow?  Yes, I am far from perfect, but I try to keep my interpersonal issues off line.

That means that this blog has become a family scrapbook of sorts.  A running account I cherish.  A labor of love for and about my family...our life together.  Mostly the good, but that is our reality right now: blessed, full of grace, but still with growing pains and struggles.

So I guess I'll keep writing in my personal journals...yes, plural, and showing up here too when I am called to share something I want my kids to be able to read about one day....something I want to preserve  After four years of chronicling here, I cannot quite fathom abandoning our story now.  There's still much to tell.

I'll never forget the night I started My Musings four plus years ago.  It was a bit of a whim.  Yet I am still blogging years later.  Blogging on the same computer despite the fact that I have a new one.  I haven't changed the format, gotten fancy, monetized, or networked.  It hasn't changed and it's not going to, and I'm good with that. I hope you are too...whoever you are.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Weekend Travelougue

Any patch of sunlight in a wood will show you something about the sun which you could never get from reading books on astronomy. These pure and spontaneous pleasures are ‘patches of Godlight’ in the woods of our experience.

C.S. Lewis

I am grateful to have spent the weekend in one of my favorites places with some of my most loved people, and also for the 'patches of Godlight' that I was able to revel in. Reentry into real life is both harsh and hurried, but I am holding onto the cozy memories made, the holy places visited, and the warm embraces shared.  Trips like this sustain me when life feels rote or mundane, and also when it feels arduous or aloof.

There is something so energizing about packing up the car with the essentials: wool sweaters, fuzzy mittens and hats, trail mix and a cache of movies and books and games, and then heading north where you may or may not get cell service.  I've been taking Door County vacations since I was a child so traveling to the peninsula is the equivalent of putting on my favorite pair of worn in jeans.  To say I have a strong affinity for the row of quaint towns is a drastic understatement.  This place is my second skin.  Over the long weekend, Coach and I tallied up at least two dozen visits in the time we have been together so it's definitely tradition.

We've had this same time next year November soiree the past few years with my family, and I'm rather fond off the timing because it's technically "off season."  Off season means that there is solitude during walks in the woods. It means you are past peak, but I don't think Mother Nature could have given us a much more beautiful display of changing leaves in season, and then we would have had to share the view with so many other revelers.  It also means that many shops and restaurants will be closed, but we've been coming long enough to not only appreciate, but also anticipate the dedicated diehards who remain open. It also means that the wind off the Bay or the Lake (depending on where you stand) will chill you to your bones, but that very shiver reminds me that I am alive...feeling....experiencing.  

We were spontaneous and lucky to get an early start Thursday noon.  We drove up in torrential rains and thick fog, which seemed apropos given it was Halloween.  The weather actually cooperated and set the scene for our haunted trolley tour that evening. It made visiting spirited cemeteries, light houses and homes all the more eerie especially for our already weary Bit.  But we were looking over our shoulders and at the foot of our beds for little Hughie all weekend long.  We were a little water logged and a lot hungry after our spooky ride so we stopped at The Bayside Tavern for a bite to eat.  The pizza was just as spicy good as my taste buds remembered.  So good that the four of us polished off the whole pie, and rumor has it that one in the party had a side of chicken tenders too.  Those chicken tenders are tradition in their own right.

We woke early enough the next morning well rested for a full day.  A full day of exploring and hiking and shopping and lunching and swimming before the rest of our family arrived just before dinner.  We ventured up to Ellison Bay to hike a new trail.  We were glad we did the minute we turned onto the tree canopied road.  It was brilliantly yellow and quietly remote with stunning views of the Bay.  The way the cliffs jettisoned over the shore made me feel a tad woozy and worried.  It made my kids laugh to see me paralyzed by the craggy sometimes vertical paths.  It was a group effort to get me to certain vistas for views, but I think I can say I confronted my fear of heights even if I didn't succeed in conquering it.

We stopped for lunch at Al Johnson's. There were no goats on the roof that chilly Friday.  I always love their Limpa bread sandwiches, but I decided to order a Swedish meatball sandwich instead.  When in Rome...or when in Sweden.  I must confess that it was a major disappointment and if I ever return, I will not feel the need to authenticate my experience.  The Swedish meatballs I like are, apparently, not very Swedish. Getting a great shot of Miss Bit in a viking hat and drinking ice cold coke out of pewter mugs made up for my menu misstep.

The fam trickled in for a quick happy hour and then we high tailed it out for a authentic Door County fish boil at my Dad's request.  It was a good request too because the whitefish was so fresh and tasty even if a little bony. (Pin bones are a #@$%@*!)  Nothing some clarified butter and homemade tarter sauce could not remedy. The cherry pie ala mode was truly icing on the cake. Sadly we missed the big boiling show, but this weekend was about going with the flow...being flexible, and I think we all did a noble job of that   Most of us have been to fish boils before so we already knew that the most important part is what ends up on the plate. We stayed up a little late talking and playing poker.  I had flashbacks of being a kid. I remembered moments just like those we were presently making, only now I was the adult and here with my children.  Generations.   Passing batons.   Reminiscing.  Reconnecting.  Rejoicing.

Saturday I woke up to the smell of coffee just the way my brother likes strong it just about puts hair on my chest.  I like it that way too when on vacation.  It was a gloriously slow start to a long day.  We were all together, but doing our own things: watching a movie, playing guitar, reading, getting a breathe of fresh air. Vacation mornings are special in that we are all together in our separate pursuits.  The main event for the day was a hike along leafy shore lined trails.  It was shaping up to be bliss until Bodi decided to be a trailblazer. We spent an hour combing the paths calling for him more and more desperately.  Little did we know he was having the hike of his life with the resident dog guide, Gunner. Then once we found Bodi, we lost my Dad, and it's all the makings for a good comedy of errors, which we rehashed over a greasy lunch on Kangaroo Lake.  It may or may not have been 4:00.  And the only thing most of us had eaten all day was a corner of cider donut and a handful or two of trail mix.  We came home and succumbed to long hot showers, naps or swims before gearing up for a night of Wizard and Wild Tomato.  We played more cards and ate pizza until we started nodding off.  I went to bed thankful for an extra hour of sleep and every single person snoozing under the same roof.

We skipped our beloved White Gull Inn breakfast and ate cold pizza for Sunday breakfast with more strong coffee or apple cider.  Then we went in three different directions: to the stables, the links or the shops and I dare say everyone was amply entertained. Once Bit heard that horseback riding was an option, she was steadfast with her desire.  She met Picasso and now she wants a horse.  I'm not sure if Grandpa remembers, but he promised to clear some of his land, buy her one and board it.  We met up for a late afternoon snack at an Egg Harbor brew pub before all going our separate ways...home.

The weekend went fast...too fast.  They always do, but I have a little comfort in knowing that we will be here same time next year, if not before.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Looking In While Looking Out

I'm sitting here at the kitchen table with a view of the leaf scattered lawn.  It's still green and lush and growing.  The squirrels are really running themselves ragged this morning.  Especially Little Red who will soon no longer resemble his name if he keeps gorging from dawn to dusk.  He cannot say no to a single stray nut or worm infested piece of fallen fruit.  It strikes me that he is simply busy being busy as I quietly watch him in spite of the long list of things I must do.  But I don't want to do right now...I only want to be.  I could sit here all day long sipping something hot while I dream and muse.

I am in denial that tomorrow is the last day of my favorite month.  I feel a little cheated because it went by at warp speed, and gypped that I didn't have the time to pay it homage the way I like to do.  The way I am called to do.  The way I need to do.  And I guess I'm also feeling a bit angry because the time was there...I just didn't seek or carve out the moments.

And I'm also feeling a little unsure of how and why this is where I find myself on the 30th day of O' holy October.  I am never ambivalent about this autumnal span. Ever.

Be but rest assured I will make up for my half hearted embrace of what I know deep within to be the sweetest of days.  November days behold a tide and tempo that entrance me almost as much.  Our eleventh month serves up an extra generous dose of gratitude along with the comfort and contentment that October offers so I will shake off this irreverence, take it all in, sit with it and give thanks for the blessing to be. here. now.  Right here...right now.  Be.

Monday, October 28, 2013

On My Mind Monday

I decided this was not the moment to push the point.  When someone's wounded, the first order of business is to stop the bleeding.  You can figure out later how best to help them heal.

Jeanette Walls
Half Broke Horses

2 day pass

it was a lovely long weekend around here.
the kids had a couple days off for conferences, and i rescheduled myself accordingly.
i love the timing of this fall break.
when they were busy with friends, i was happy to escape out for a walk or into a book, a recipe, or a movie.
i found myself watching the ring in the middle of friday afternoon with the boys.
it was a little spooky for t. bone and not spooky enough for me.
i love a good horror flick best of all and especially just days before halloween.
peanut and tigger loved it because they had laps to cuddle up on in the middle of the afternoon.
later i braided miss bit's hair, and she donned all things peace, love and tie dye for a date with her dad at her school's monster bash.
they had fun, but not as much fun as i had making chex mix and a big old pot of soup for a gathering the next day as i sang along with cat stevens and janis joplin.
when you are home alone with the windows closed, you can sing loud as you like.
saturday we traveled southwest through farms and fields for a surprise party to celebrate my mother in law.
she will be 70 in a couple weeks and had never had a proper surprise party.
now she has.
i think the best surprise was the attendance of both her brothers who came in from texas for the occasion.
it was festive afternoon of family, fun and food.
sunday i met jess for a walk along the lake while the kids were at church school.
it was such a beautiful, sunny morning...a walk was just the perfect way to start the day.
the kids spent the rest of the day trick or treating with friends while i visited with friends and tried to give a crash course in manners to the children and adults who rang the door bell.
apparently, i have many opinions about trick or treat etiquette.
crazy things like costumes are required, and age limits enforced.
we had a lasagna dinner with the ladies and came home just in time for bed.
amazingly we slept like babies despite all the chocolate and sugar consumed.
must have been the gluten.
i'm so glad we all have another short week.
and also another fun, family filled weekend to look forward to.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

A short week and an extra long weekend.

Conferences.  Both kiddos got rave reviews about character as well as performance.

An impromptu lunch date with friends who happened to have the same post conference idea as we did.

Coach thought it was mildly entertaining that I sent him to the school's Monster Bash last night as Miss Bit's escort.  The Monster Bash is tonight.  Oops!  That's what happens when my schedule gets upended.

Miss Bit decided to be a hippie for Halloween.  She is all about peace and love so it is perfect.

Chicken thighs and pan sauces.  A very tasty and quick combination.

Some deep fall cleaning the last couple weeks.  I've made several trips to the donation center.

It's been dark when I get up in the morning.  I love the absence of light because it feels like permission to ease into the day.

Miss Bit and I spotted the daintiest little snowflakes falling from the sky the other day.  She was giddy.  That made me giddy too.

The seafood guy came to town with a fresh haul from the Texas coast.  We made a delicious shrimp scampi for Sunday night dinner.  Miss Bit and I enjoyed it most.

T. Bone played his final football game of the season last Saturday under the lights of a just full moon at the high school stadium.  I think he's looking forward to a little more free time since he's been practicing and playing one sport or another (and sometimes two) for at least 2 years.

Coach is off today too.  We are going for a long walk after we see T. Bone off with his friends to rock climb and before Miss Bit's friend comes over to play.

Plans for this afternoon include making a chowder, carving a pumpkin, watching a Halloween movie and just enjoying the most beautiful fall day.

We celebrated 18 years this week.  We've come a long way.  We have a long way to go, but there is no one else I would want to share my life...this life...with.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Road Less Traveled

You know what Frost says about the road less traveled?  Well, don't take it on your way to work. Especially if it was once the road more frequently traveled.  Every block will hold memories.  Many landmarks will evoke emotions. You'll be seeing ghosts looking out windows and apparitions hiding behind trees as you travel through your old stomping grounds. At first, you'll see things not how they are now, but how they were.  And then you'll be jolted into the present by a stop sign where one has never been, or a quick footed jaywalker, or a bus that cuts you off as it spews grey gusts of exhaust your way. You'll be feeling in between worlds, straddling then and now.  Raw and unsettled.  Unsure.

The image of the first place you called home will stay with you all day.  You'll be able to see yourself playing with Mrs. K's antique toys on the braided rug.  You'll remember the cabinet's worth of treasures she kept and how she loved to let you explore them under her watchful eye.  So caught up you will be in that decades old memory that you will still smell Mr. K.'s sickly sweet pipe tobacco so many years later, and hear the ice clanking at happy hour in his bourbon high ball.  You'll taste Mrs. K.'s standing offering: a bowl of the richest, most delicious chocolate ice cream the likes of which you will never savor anywhere else.  The feel of Fannie's silky smooth bunny fur is just a touch away.

That crisp memory will recede as you pass Buckley's and are transported back to the late 80's. Who isn't there?  It was the place to go...your St. Elmo's Fire.  You can hear Red Red Wine and you do indeed feel fine as you wash down a shot of Jaggermeister all the while hoping it numbs your heart along with your throat and mind.  You were so young and also so misunderstood mostly by yourself.  You were moving forward from high school to college, but still looking back longingly.  One foot in Madison and one foot still firmly planted in Shorewood.  You already had an idea that would cost you, just not how much.  Is that INXS? Yep, someone played I Need You Tonight on the jukebox.  You see him.  You knew you would.  He's playing pool.  He sees you too.  He smiles and looks as happy to see you as you are to see him.  It feels like kismet this cued up song, this chance sighting.

While You See a Chance comes on the radio real time and fast forwards you a few years.  Steve Winwood always reminds you of your brother.  You are sitting around his living room.  This new place is more bachelor pad than starving student slum.  It's comfortable.  It has character.  You can see the expression of intense mama pride on your Mom's face from across the candlelit room.  You can feel it.  It's palpable.  This is all she wants for her kids.  To be near.  To find happiness.  To find their ways. You are all so satisfied and happy in that evening that it is almost tragic.

It strikes you as you drive down this boulevard  you used to commute on every day with your Mom how much things change and how quickly.  Despite the fact that it's been more than thirty years since you lived in this neighborhood, two decades since you allowed your heart to be broken, and fifteen years since you thought life couldn't get any better, it really seems like yesterday.  A blink. A flicker.  A flash.  A tear.  And you hear Robert Frost as your eyes water and your heart swells:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Sometimes the roads you travel are not by choice.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Grateful Friday

Grateful Friday

Pear martinis on the patio for Friday night happy hour.  3 parts Grey Goose Pear Vodka, 1 part simple syrup, squeeze of lime shaken and served over ice with a splash of club soda.

A spirited game of Aniome.

Miss Bit getting to spend an impromptu, fun filled 24 hours with her grandma and grandpa.  I think they enjoyed it as much as she did.  They went to see Gravity, out horseback riding and to the pumpkin farm.

Stock simmering on the stove on a grey Saturday.  It is good not only for the senses, but also the soul.

The rich and lovely stock became split pea soup.  Coach and I love pea soup.  Our old secret is 1-2 diced jalapenos.  Our new secret is homemade baguette croutons.

A Sunday morning walk along the lake with Coach.

An after church breakfast stromboli.  We had to use up leftover pizza dough and coudn't really eat any more pizza. T. Bone said it was restaurant worthy.

The way the cats contort to fit together on the same chair.

Pumpkin seeds.

Grandpa's beef stew for Sunday night dinner.  The secret is a few dashes of smoked paprika.  It's best served over Coach's mashed potatoes.  He's the new potato king around these parts.

Parenthood.  I just love this show.

SNL's Boy Dance Party.  It will be a classic.

A bit of a blog break.  I needed to listen to other callings this week.

I have started Christmas shopping.  I love finding the right gift and squirreling away surprises even though I would take five more Octobers in lieu of one December at this point.

Nina Simone radio.