Wednesday, April 30, 2014

How Many More?

I'm listening to Pandora...Paul Simon radio on this gloriously gloomy day.  They just played a live version of my favorite Simon classic, Trains in the Distance, which I haven't heard in ages.  It's a bit obscure.  That's probably why I like it best, and also because it reminds me of a perfect post-college weekend in Chicago.  We were in a little Irish bar in Lincoln Park on a gorgeous afternoon.  The door was propped open to let in the chalky spring air.  We were all there and all singing, toasting and making lots of plans for not only the weekend, but the great and promising expanse of life ahead.  Those were the days of no looking back.  Now Into the Mystic is on.  It's in my top three Van Morrison favorites.  There are a million and one memories -both happy and sad-  that flash through my mind every time I hear Van Morrison crooning.  Moondance was supposed to be the song Coach and I danced our first dance to, but the band screwed up.  That was literally the only thing that didn't go as planned on our wedding day as far as I know.  Well, that and snow on October 21st.  I'm feeling overcome with nostalgia today, and at a bit of a loss for words.  Except for this passage from The Sheltering Sky...words I understand more poignantly today than when I was first struck by them decades ago in those days of only looking forward.
Death is always on the way, but the fact that you don't know when it will arrive seems to take away from the finiteness of life.  It's that terrible precision that we hate so much.  But because we don't know, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well.  Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really.  How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that's so deeply a part of your being that you can't even conceive of your life without it?  Perhaps, four or five times more.  Perhaps not even.  How many more times will you watch the full moon rise?  Perhaps twenty.  And yet it all seems limitless.
 - Paul Bowles

Monday, April 28, 2014

2 day pass

sweet relief fell on friday after the week's jarring reentry to routine.
kiddie cocktails with extra cherries...a bribe for my girl to let me teach her backgammon on a slow eve...
a game she is almost ready for, but not quite.
she had a play date with grandma and grandpa after swimming on saturday...
they went to see 7 brides for 7 brothers...
she said it was "olden," but good.
he had his first baseball game of the season and we had our last bowling night...
they won....
we took second place.
second place for the season!
sunday the boys went to practice and she spent all afternoon outside with her bff.
i kept myself busy puttering here and there...mostly in the kitchen.
it was a glorious day...inside and out!
i stuffed a chicken with halved lemons and garlic and a handful of thyme.
i mashed potatoes, made salad dressing and tried a new brussels sprout recipe.
jess joined us for dinner and the evening turned to night much too soon.
i have such a love hate relationship with sunday.
it is a day of beginnings and endings...
starts and finishes...
hellos and...

Saturday, April 26, 2014

9 Year Old Wisdom

She came home from swim practice the other night and announced, "I like Coach D!"  Just before practice she declared, "I don't like Coach D.  He's cranky!"

The reason behind the 60 minute change of heart was a rather impressive compliment Coach paid her. He told her that her kicks were high school kicks and then she told me, "To think that all it took was a compliment."

Recognition when earned and praise when deserved go a long way,  Even my 9 year old knows that.

I think she'll kick her way through the rest of the season without complaint.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

Looking for the light.  Reaching and growing.

I finished The Fault in Our Stars. I found it to be realistic rather than pessimistic because I believe pain is a side affect of living as well as dying.  I loved the literary references throughout.

Sacred mother daughter moments.  I was talking about angels with Miss Bit during our commute the other day.  The conversation was sparked by my audiobook  I was trying to give her the 9 year old synopsis.  In true Lily form, she wasn't satisfied with the milk toast version.  Before she got out of the car, we were both in tears.  Happy tears.  She asked me if I believe in angels.  I shared the story of the night I felt them, and that's when the beautiful tears flowed.

Heart to hearts too.  This week not just about near death experiences and angels, but also being a good friend, and the importance of choosing good friends, and that we do, in fact, have a choice.  Puberty and raging emotions too.  Heavy stuff, and so so important.

My daughter is such a sweet soul and wise beyond her years.

But she's also just 9.  Case in point...she's swinging her heart out on the swing set and belting out tunes in the backyard all by herself as I type.

That voice.  I may be biased, but it's so beautiful.  A parishioner in the pew in front of us kept looking back at her last week during mass.  I noticed.  She noticed.  And I told her what I believe to be true: that she couldn't believe such a beautiful voice could come out of such a young girl.  It was a little bit divine. 

I've been moonlighting as a short order cook now that spring sports are almost in full swing at Casa Wags, and I'm becoming pretty good at it.  Something tells me that this is going to be more the norm than an exception.

Toms.  I bought Miss Bit a pair.  They are worth the $50+ price tag because she wears them everyday and they look a-dorable with everything.

My sous baker.  She decorated this almost all by herself!  It was almost too pretty to eat, but somehow we managed.

Easter hymns.  The music last Sunday moved me to tears.  My favorite was the hymn set to the Pachelbel Canon.

The way T. Bone offers me the top of his head to kiss before bed.  I'd rather a cheek, but I am just gladder than glad he still wants to be tucked in at all.

He has a voice too.  He sings through his shower and is also known to burst into song in the middle of his homework or dinner or really any old time.

Most nights he falls asleep with his light on book in hand, and that's when I steal a smooch on the cheek.

My kids...they think they're so different, but they're also much the same.  They both love Castle, Mine Craft, sausage roni pizzas and their cats.  They're both scared of spiders and split pea soup.  They both dislike cereal with milk and scary movies.  They are both confident and compassionate.  They have the bluest blue eyes.

Remembering when T. Bone was just a little shaver. He's not a very willing photo subject these days.

The Muppets.  I recently took Miss Bit and her friends to see the latest Muppet movie.  It was my first, and while I understand it was not one of their best...or better...I laughed a lot and found the whole thing clever, cute and oddly nostalgic.  Now I'm working my way through the backlog.

The steadfast coo of the morning sad and yet so hopeful.  I find it uncanny that it's often the first bird I hear in the morning and the last at night. 
T. Bone has his first baseball game Saturday and his first tennis match next week.
I found my address book.
Company while I blog. 

Last night I couldn't sleep for long enough that I moved downstairs to the family room couch.  This guy curled up at my feet right away and purred so loudly for so long it almost lulled me to sleep.  Forget counting sheep...ultimately, reciting poems I've memorized over the years did the trick.

My ideas journal.  It's where I record my daily mind dump so I can remember all those things I don't want to forget and make room for all the things I have to remember.
Raspberry vinaigrette.  Over spinach topped with pear, pecans, red onion and blue cheese.

Orchids.  They love my living room. 

Shhh...but after a week off, I was happy to go back to work yesterday.
And now it's the weekend again.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Trust in Time

I was reminded of a rather humbling lesson today.

It's been a rough couple of days.  Days that made me want to hide from the sun shining on the ever warming world.   The kind of days that take extra effort to get through and render usual comforts, chores.  Things like reading, fresh air hikes, and cooking, which are almost never arduous.  I finished a book, I walked many miles, and I made use of my ham bone for soup, yet still I felt burden not relief.

There are reasons for the malaise. Identifiable causes, but right now they seem so much smaller and less significant, which means there were reasons.  Already on the verge of past tense.  There will always be reasons...worries and wrongs to wallow in and that weigh upon.  I know this so the agitator is in mismanaging my reactions.  Mostly my overreactions.  Ala the only person I can control and/or change is myself.

And yet to know this truth and accept its responsibility, doesn't always make its implementation possible or likely.  Sometimes it takes some time so all bouts of self lamentation and every internal pep talk only make me feel more hopeless and heavy.  Time, it heals. Trite, but also true.

This morning I woke up recognizing all of yesterday's gifts.  Favors that just the day before I wasn't ready to honor.  My heart was too head too hazy to accept them.  I was off center, akimbo and out of balance.  This morning I felt so much more myself as I pulled out of the driveway and chanted my daily nod to Prufrock:

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question. . .
Oh, do not ask, "What is it?"
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go

Talking of Michelangelo.

Miss Bit always gives me a you're so strange mom sideways glance when I  recite the opening stanza.  I think I may even do it to annoy her now, but today the words I rotely utter made me excited to read Eliot's monologue again in entirety.  I haven't read it through since college.  I was excited because Hazel quoted the same part of Prufrock for Augustus.  That small text to world connection woke me up to so many thoughts and feelings I have today with regard to a book that yesterday I was numb to as I read the last page.  This morning I edited the photo I almost didn't bother to take during yesterday's walk. Today I appreciate my capture of two hawks hawking.  The batch of soup I didn't think I put much love into yesterday, proves itself forgiving today as I enjoyed a bowl.

Today I'm remembering what a difference a day (or two) can make.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Post Break Blues

Miss Bit painted this yesterday.
She's into quotes and painting...she's into painting quotes.
Be still my heart.
We were painting because a front came through mid day turning temperatures cooler and bringing a little spring rain.
That was right after I'd opened every single window in the house to let in the warm, fresh air and suggested a hike.
She was already on the down yo...feeling sad that we were able to measure vacation left in hours not days.
we didn't go anywhere over the break, but we still enjoyed a change of pace and plenty of fun outings.
It was sort of a hectic week trying to get in my hours at work, keep them entertained and ready the house for an Easter gathering.
Now I'm on a bit of a down yo myself.

She couldn't sleep last night.
I couldn't sleep enough.
I struggled to get out of bed to get the day started.
Yet this morning she rose quickly and was cheerful.
I guess my pep talk with regard to a short week ahead and only 36 school days until summer vacation made an impact.
The countdown is on.
And it's true...Even if your best moments r gone, there's always more to come!

P.S. I add the comma.

Monday, April 21, 2014

2 day pass

the easter bunny came.
He was risen.
family gathered.
warm weather graced us.
it was all things spring, rebirth, renewal.

the bunny left baskets of goodies edible and other.
He brought joy and hope.
family came bearing casseroles, cakes, champs, flowers and more baskets.
mother nature delivered a much welcome spring to our steps.
it was a day of goodies and goodness.

we gathered on the patio and in the yard.
the kids found eggs, ate too much candy and quickly ditched their easter duds for shorts and flip flops.
the cats eyed us with envy from every open window.
and at the end of the day we were warm and full in both body and spirit.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Monday, April 14, 2014

2 day pass

there's only one thing I love more than a rainy day.
it's a rainy couple of days aka a rainy weekend.
stormy skies give permission to curl up with a book, or around the table for a game, or in the kitchen cooking while nina simone sings.
grey days are an invitation to sleep a little longer or maybe even all day.
no I didn't, but I would have if i could have.
rainy days are three coffee days with extra cream.
they are slow, deliberate, delicious.
coach managed to grill the first burgers of the season in between rounds of thunder and lightning.
and then we played a long overdue game of telestrations, which we've been talking about since it arrived with santa.
we celebrated palm sunday at church.
the passion always stirs me.
miss bit and i enjoyed a local high school's rendition of into the woods on sunday afternoon.
i saw it many moons ago on broadway, and it was but a distant memory.
we enjoyed all 3 hours of it even though we got caught in a late afternoon storm.
we hopscotched through puddles arm and arm giggling all the way to the car and i wanted to hit pause.
you know those moments...right?
yea we were wet, but content and together.
all the way home we made more plans as we drove straight through the city.
there are many more spring musicals to view and churches to attend.
coach and i had a backgammon tournament before sunday dinner.
he won, but i should have.
the dice gods were not on my side.
they almost never are when he is my opponent.
dinner was shredded turkey with gravy.
rainy days also are perfect for hearty crockpot dinners.
coach, tigger and I were the first to crawl into bed.
not surprising since we parents don't have spring break this week and those cats are shameless sleepers.
this morning miss bit was up at her usual time.
rumor has it that t. bone slept until noon.
snow is falling as forecasted.
i think we're all secretly wishing we were headed south.
yet i'm grateful to be staying home to celebrate easter in our church with our loved ones on sunday.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Dear Sylvia,


You've been on my mind.  I've been mulling over something you said.  I have this little fantasy that we could sit side by side over coffee or wine and have a heart to heart.  Honestly you said and wrote many things that give me pause, but what brought me here today is this sentiment.... God, how I ricochet between certainties and doubts.  It seems lately I'm either The Little Engine That Could or Oblomov, and sometimes that changes by the hour.  I know you also struggled to have strength and faith when filled with fear and uncertainty.  I have admired your spirit in spite of your demons, or perhaps, because of them.   We all have them.  Although usually we don't talk about them unfiltered.  You were bloody honest and sharply blunt about the harshness of life, and your life was harsh.  Life is harsh period.  Yet I sense that you also knew its beauty even if the darkness eventually prevailed.   Life is beautiful period.  While I feel like kindred spirits in a sense let's be clear, I only stick my head in ovens when I'm baking.  But the thing is that I am interested in finding answers to the questions that haunted you.  Questions like how to be. here. now?  And who am I?  And how can I make myself understood?  Fulfilled?  Free?  And what is the way out of the mind?  In the Bell Jar you wrote, I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart: I am, I am, I am. 

I am Sylvia.

Sadly, you were.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

2 day pass

we had our first taste of spring this weekend.
we took advantage of the warmer temperatures and the sunshine as much as possible.
t. bone had lots of baseball practice, the ice finally melted on the basketball court so he could shoot some march madness inspired hoops, and he decided to use the house as a backboard in preparation for tennis team tryouts today.
miss bit put on her glove and warmed up her bat.
her arm got stronger over the long winter.
now i'm the only one who throws like a girl.
miss bit invited a friend along for the much anticipated owl show at the nature preserve saturday afternoon.
it was a treat to see all six of their owls on one stage.
i am especially fanatic over the saw whet and snowy owls.
the girls were the owl paparazzi snapping away frantically for the duration.
i took them for ice cream after the presentation and they enjoyed their double scoops.
enjoyed them so much they were covered in chocolate and cream.
i told them never to order cones like that on a date...
unless they want it to be a last date.
they chuckled at the mention of boys not yet able to conceive of a time they won't be hanging out just together.
coach went to madison to watch the badgers in their home city.
the kids and i went up the block to watch with neighbors.
miss bit was the only girl and is not much of a basketball fan.
when we got home, i thanked her knowing it was not the most exciting party for her.
she said, "it's fine.  ya know sometimes you've gotta take one for the family."
see why i cannot resist her?
i think we were taking one for t. bone because he didn't want to be stuck watching it alone with the girls.
i was looking forward to a quiet night at home truth be told.
after the disappointing loss, we came home and went to bed straight away.
sunday was a bright and shiny new day.
we listened to the story of lazarus in church.
at one point, miss bit pulled me close enough to whisper, "this is really interesting."
then again to confess that she didn't feel so good.
i guess leftover badger cupcakes for breakfast don't agree with her.
while they attended sunday school, i shopped first at my favorite italian bakery and then deli for fixings for dinner.
coach was already home when we returned so we headed out for a walk.
we were surprised to see caterpillars crossing the path.
if the rain comes this week, the world around us will green up quick.
it was a treat to turn off the heat and throw open the patio doors.
the boys sat at attention all afternoon watching chippies and birds and kids.
hopefully the $300+ energy bill i opened saturday, will be the last of that magnitude for a long while.
it's time to deflannel the beds and stash the wool.
we gathered as we always do for sunday dinner.
my meatball subs are a family favorite especially on sciortino rolls with glorioso's sauce.
t. bone ate all of his and 1/2 of mine.
coach, miss bit, tigger and i ended up in bed reading soon after dinner.
it was early to bed in anticipation of our busy week ahead.
another well spent weekend tucked back behind us.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

The way that sometimes when I come here to give thanks and I draw a bit of a blank, all I have to do is check out my Instagram. The photos in my feed always remind me of all the goodness in life...who and what inspires me. 


This recipe for Zuppa Toscana.  It was almost perfect except next time I will add more potato and spinach, a little less cream and a dash of acidity in the form of white wine or white wine vinegar.  I think a couple crusty, salty croutons made from a loaf of stale rustic bread would be lovely on top too.

Faith, Hope and Charity the sweetest hooded rats in the world, and also the pillars on which to live our lives.

The way Miss Bit loves our friend Mary and is so interested in her life.  She had a docket of questions for her when we stopped by last weekend, and a genuine interest in hearing all the answers. It was like I wasn't there for a few minutes in a good, proud way.  When we got in the car she said, "I just love Mary's house.  When I grow up, I want to live there." I think she means there with Mary.  She is drawn to the best.

Her orphan costume is adorable!  Mary really came through.

Coach for completing the taxes.

The Girl Scout Troop selling cookies at our grocery store last weekend had Caramel Delights.  I just threw out 5 boxes of GS cookies that were 3+ years old.  They were in the pantry forgotten because they weren't Caramel Delights.  The kids are already down a box.

My friend turned me onto this book of short stories after reading a NYT review.  It should be in my mailbox any day.  I am excited because empathy is a characteristic I hold in esteem.  I think that the narcissism and entitlement of our culture has left it in short supply.

Miss Bit had a last minute invite for a sleepover tonight.  She's my homebody so I celebrate when she spreads her wings.

She made a batch of chocolate chip cookies almost all by herself to take along with Ellie, Allie and Gregory, her bed mates.



Friends who offer to take your broken earring to the jeweler for repair.

Angels in Heaven.  My uncle went there one year ago today.

Thursday, April 3, 2014


Someone once said "Imitation is the finest form of flattery."

Carole Radziwell recently said, "Flattery is the finest form of flattery."  It made me laugh.

I agree with Carole wholeheartedly, and yet I cannot trust someone who is overly complimentary in a fawning, manic, enough already way.  You know them...right? Having a conversation with them is like one long ego stroke.  You should feel like a million bucks when they're done talking, but you don't because you know you aren't perfect.  You wonder...of whom do they speak?  Either they don't know you very well or they are grossly insincere.

Yet I warn you....the least trustworthy are those that never offer a single compliment. They are the most grudging or ill intended.  I know you know them too.  They are the ones who casually ask, "Is that a new (fill in the blank)?" always noticing.  "Did you make that?"  "Did you write that?"  "Where did you get that? When you answer, they smugly say "Hmmm."  Sometimes you might get a dismissive, "That's nice." They are superior and their every interaction must remind the other party of that. I have a difficult time paying compliments to those who are stingy with their kind words.  That fact is only one proof that I am not far removed from my high school self, but I do compliment myself on noticing this character flaw because I am a complimenter.'s hard to be nice to the not nice even as I hear that little voice...kill em' with kindness.  At this point, I'm already a murderer!

I could compliment almost every person I encounter in a day.  I don't because it's not always appropriate, but I could.  It's always in the back of my mind that we rise by lifting others.  I want to rise, soar, shine.

But I digress.  Let's get back to the Real Housewives.  I think Aviva crossed the line showing up in the same pair of glasses as Carole.  I wouldn't want to be anyone's four-eyed twin.  She also insulted Carole by suggesting anyone can write a book.  I understood why that struck a  nerve with Carole.  I mean anyone can indeed write a book, but not everyone can write a good book.  That being said I have no plans to read either of their books. I may write a book, which I am sure many of my anti-compliment friends and family won't read, or won't admit to reading. Carole hit below the belt too when she dismissed Aviva's role as a mother. As a writer and a a woman and a friend, I take offense to most everything about their interaction.   And I guess the moral of the story is beware of those who are overly complimentary as well as those who never have a kind word to share.  Oh and rise on your own.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Soft is Brave

It takes courage to feel. 
I know this inside out.
I muster my mettle when I sit with sorrow.
It also takes guts to embrace true joy.
Indifference and hardness of heart are for the cowardly.
So I wonder why my gossamer skin makes me feel weak and shaky when I clearly value my sensitivity.
It's just that I don't know how not to feel everything.
I don't know how not to feel everything intensely.
I do know that my spongy nature often leaves me feeling vulnerable.
Another word for vulnerable is open.
It's true I absorb the positive and the negative.
The dark and the light.
The elixirs and the toxins.
And that's why soft is brave.
Brave isn't always the armor clad warrior nobly righting every wrong.
Sometimes the boldest shows of bravery are no shows at all.
It is also the gift of the lionhearted to know when to retreat and how to resign.
I won't always be seen, heard or understood no matter what I do or how desperately I may want to be.
I know I don't need to be right or on top or ahead.
I just need peace.
The kind of peace that comes from within.
You see real heroes know when to be humble.
And there is nothing more beautiful than humility in humanity.
It is that bit of divinity within us.
That glimpse of all that is good.
The real reason we want to be brave and soft.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

2 day pass

i'm in a rut here.
figuratively in this blog space.
and literally in my life right now.
i'm still writing...just not much here.
my words are a little raw and personal for this forum at present.
i'm still getting up each morning and getting through every day, but truthfully it's a bit of a chore right now.
let's just say that i have a lot on my mind.
more weighing on my mind than on my plate, and that is dangerous for an over-thinker.
and yet at the end of the day, i am grateful for the abundant blessings in my life.
if i just look closely, they are always there to brace and comfort and ease.
looking back over the weekend, there were real and true joy moments.
there were pockets of contentment as soft and welcoming as my favorite flannels.
so while i am eager to get on with it, i must also look back and extract that marrow that sustains and keeps it all real.
real and good.
real good.
things like a walk and talk with a friend on a cold, but brilliantly sunny afternoon.
a good book that i could not put down but also didn't want to finish.
a moving homily that reminded me not to judge at a time when i am most porous and, therefore, sensitive to offend and prone to opine.
a hike at the favorite place with my favorite girl where the trails were muddy and the ponds still frozen, but we both acknowledged the beauty even in the barrenness.
an impromptu pot of zuppa toscana and a loaf of crusty bread to warm my husband and brother in law after splitting wood on a cold spring saturday.
cheering our badgers on to the final 4 with some true basketball fans who embraced the neophyte in their mist that newbie being me.
watching frozen with my girl, her favorite movie in the world, on a sunday afternoon for her third time and my first.
little things like bike rides and leftover chinese and bagels and coffee.
big things like friendship and family and God.
so much good.
real good.