Friday, January 30, 2015

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...


Calmly weathering life's storms.  It's not natural for me to roll with it when things go wrong or askew, but I've been better at handling those curve balls lately.  It's healthier to quiet my inner victim and become the hero especially when the kids are watching ever so intently.  Our reactions inform them, shape them, empower them, and if we're not careful, they scare them.

A husband who can add electrician to his resume this week.  Last week it was plumber and the week before painter.

My new (unclogged) spa shower - thanks to Plumber Coach as well.

Trivia Crack.  It's addicting.

A mid-day mid-week date at the movies with my guy.  We saw American Sniper.  I'm glad we saw it, but I'm not exactly sure how I feel about it yet.

Popcorn for lunch.

Tonight we have a date to pick out new sunglasses and then try out a new restaurant in our city.  Just the two of us.  No curfew.

Our first meeting for high school was only slightly mind bending.  Good thing we have four more before Teddy's inaugural year.  I'm thankful for what, at times, seems like over-communication because it gets us all  prepared gradually.

Miss Bit's desk is finished and she's loving it.  We moved a few things out and around, hung her new horse canvas, and she is as pleased as can be.  I was prepared to paint and redecorate, but she's perfectly happy the way it is.  There is much to learn from her attitude in life.

Tuna mixed with Greek yogurt instead of mayo.  I actually prefer it this way and it's so much healthier.

Cabbage roasted with ribbons of carrots, onions, cider vinegar and habanero sauce.   Crunchy, sweet, sour and spicy.


Mary Oliver.  I read an interview she gave somewhere on the inter web the other day.  I jotted down this line because it made total sense to me:  "Attention without feeling, I began to learn, is only a report.  An openness - an empathy - was necessary if attention was to matter."

Journals in which to doodle and jot.

Weekend projects.  I'm putting together a very special CD for a couple friends this weekend.

A fun time in the studio with my girl.  I didn't feel great owing to my cold and being out late the night before, but I knew how much it would mean to her to be so spontaneous.  It meant a great deal to me as well.  It was good for me to just do just have be in the moment.

Feeling lighter.  More optimistic too.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Just a Dream

My mom visited my dream last night.  I haven't seen her for awhile.  It wasn't a happy reunion, but at the same time any time I see her, it is good.  Life is so full of contradictions and juxtapositions.  So are dreams.

I'll spare you the details of my sequence.  What is lingering yet today is the crushing sadness of seeing someone I saw as strong and powerful reduced to weak and powerless.  Also haunting is losing hope all over again.  Hope is that last bastion of faith also known as fools paradise and greedy glutton. 

Is it greedy to want more than a sixty year life?  I argue it isn't even while conceding that many are robbed much sooner.  Are we fools to pray first for cures and later miracles?  I am not a skeptic though my faith has been tested and my hope lost.  To lose hope is to accept defeat.

She was in my dream alive. We were all just realizing that she would die soon.  Our hopes were dashed as we knew there was nothing more to do.  That was a dark day I'll never forget.  Going back there last night made for a disheartening dream.  I woke up crying and soon found myself relieved that I didn't have to go through losing her all over again.  That it was just a dream.  Just a dream: another paradox.

Monday, January 26, 2015

2 day pass

last night before i turned in, i looked back over the weekend behind.
i didn't have high expectations at its onset.
i came home after work friday afternoon and went straight to bed.
cold head even mugs of tea and doses of drugs did little to relieve was to blame.
at the end of it all though, it was a fine coupling of days.
and, of course, this is usually the case...
low expectations yielding high rewards.
the less we expect, the more we get.
pleasantly surprised we say.
so when i woke early to make t. bone a hot breakfast before a day on the slopes saturday,
i was happy to hit the trails anew instead of my pillows again.
the sky was a showy mix of stormy clouds and slivers of sky.
before my miles were complete, the clouds lost.
the sun high in the sky had me shedding layers and for just a moment...
thinking of spring.
january thaw we say.
while miss bit sang her heart out at voice, i curled up with a mug of orange cinnamon tea and a book.
i have missed this saturday hour during which i have permission to simply pass time.
guilty pleasure we say.
a little of this and a little of that and it was gloaming.
it was our monthly bowling night, and we had fun being out together and with friends.
i bowled well...carried coach as a matter of fact..
all for one and one for all we say.
sunday we woke to only the slightest trace of snow.
we're coveting that nor'easter headed to the coast.
dreaming of being stranded in a cozy and well stocked home for just a day or two.
the measly inch or two of snow promised will fall today or so they say.
a day late and a dollar short we say.
after church, coach and i went for breakfast.
it's our standing sunday date.
i wanted scones or croissants or muffins, but i ordered the steel cut oats with almonds and honey and extra honey.
that spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down we say.
it does.
my bed was calling after a late night, an early morning and a dose of strong cold meds, but i resisted.
ted was with friends, coach was playing plumber/painter (and doing so quite well i must add), and it seemed like the perfect time to have a little one on one with my girl.
we spent the afternoon at the studio painting pottery.
we were both very our elements we say.
when we arrived home, jess surprised us with a visit.
she had a tougher week than i did so we poured a little wine.
it's 5 o'clock somewhere we say.
and it was.
pasta two ways was for dinner so jess wisely accepted an invitation.
i made mac and cheese, and a pasta caprese.
i don't mind being a short order cook on sundays.
no one else seemed to mind either as both dishes were well approved and very much enjoyed.
and now here we are...
it's monday again.
this is a full week ahead for our family and yet, i'm already looking ahead to next weekend.
don't wish your life away we say.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

The end of the week. It was a bit of a mess of mismanaged appointments and events, car troubles, sickness and lots of leftovers, but we made it through.

The water went off after last night's dinner dishes were done and back on before bed so I could take a warm, albeit rather wimpy, shower.  It made me realize how good we have it, and how much I take for granted.

Miss Bit loves her voice lessons.  She came out of her session chatting away about how awesome it was...will be.

Clementines also known as cuties.  Such a perfect snack.

My elliptical. We've spent much time together this week.

An existential crisis before it's too late to do anything about it.


Permission.  Permission to return Station Eleven to the library unfinished because it wasn't grabbing me, permission to cut my workout short because I was exhausted, permission go to bed early, permission to put extra honey in my tea and to eat a yogurt bar right after dinner, permission to grant myself time and space.

Patience and persistence too.

A van full of 14 year old boys.  I love being a fly on the wall to observe their banter.

This line from Oliver's Blue Horses: Maybe the desire to make something beautiful is the piece of God that is inside each of us.  And this one from Forgive Me: If I were a perfect person, I would be bowing continuously.

Snow is in our Sunday forecast.  Of course, Ted has a ski trip tomorrow and we're in the midst of another January thaw.  This has not been the winter for snow enthusiasts.

Parenthood.  I sobbed through the show last night.  Probably as much owing to content as to the fact that next week is the series finale.  I know I'm being dramatic, but I am going to feel a void without my weekly dose of the Bravermans in the same way I did when Thirty Something and Brothers and Sisters ended.  I just don't think one more hour is going to be enough.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Under Pressure

This past week Teddy and I had a conversation about college sparked by recent placement testing.  He was online researching what it takes to get into a "good" college.  There were 9 important things that colleges are looking for that he identified.  One of them is honors classes and another overall GPA.  He was trying to decide whether he should take as many honors classes as he is eligible for or cherry pick.  He was weighing the likelihood of a higher GPA in non honors classes against the benefit of accepting the challenges of tougher classes.  He wanted to know what I did.

When I was in 8th grade, college prep wasn't even on my radar.  I expected that I'd go to college because I was a good student and it was expected of me, but I wasn't concerned with GPAs, ACTs or SATs.  I was concerned with what I was going to do over the weekend not in 4 1/2 years.  My high school didn't have "honors" classes.  Some people took Algebra Freshman year and others took Algebra II.  I took them both twice and still was on the National Honor Society and somehow managed to get into my first choice school.  I didn't know it was my first choice school until late in the application process so I am to this day eternally grateful for my Mom for filling out and sending in the application sans essay or glut of referrals.  Somehow she knew that I wasn't going to be happy at Connecticut College or any of the other small faraway colleges I was focusing on.

On one hand, I think this early preparation and awareness is a good thing.  It puts kids in the position to know what they are working so hard for.  It gives them goals and incentives.  It sets them up to be active participants in their education and futures, which is highly motivating.  They are invested whether they like it or not. On the other hand, it stresses them out and ekes a little bit of the fun and freedom of being a teenager right out from under them. Every decision is calculated and with consequence.  Every class, sport, activity, relationship becomes a means to an end and not an experience in and of itself.  They are forced to grow up faster as they internalize the magnitude of every decision they make.

I wonder how my college experience would have been different if I had more of an awareness about myself and the experience.  There are few things I would change, but one that I would is a biggie.  As big as my major.  I think I would've majored in education instead of English, and I would've focused on Spanish instead of Women's Studies.  I think if I had been looking further ahead, I would have made more precise and practical decisions.

Gone are the days where T. Bone dreams of being drafted into the MLB.  He talks a lot about business these days.  He's interested in architecture and making a lot of money so he can own fabulous homes in all the places he loves.  He's 14 after all.  I'd be worried about him if his dreams weren't lofty or if they were too whittled down.  He's still got a whole lot of growing up and learning to do, but the countdown has begun.  Tick tock.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

Coach for working with me on redoing this desk.  He has much more experience, and while I am aware that it's not his favorite thing to do, he is...we are.


The 5th grade choir sang The Circle Game during their performance this week.  It's one of my favorite songs.  I was first introduced to it in college.  It was a song that my sorority sang at each and every ceremony.  Sororities have lots of ceremonies, but I never tired of it.  Now it will remind me of my sweet faced daughter.

Her voice lessons start tomorrow.  She's a little nervous, but I think it will help her gain confidence over what she possesses...namely, a beautiful instrument.

But she was aware that the story you think you know is never the real one.  I read Lily King's Euphoria this week and give it the big thumbs up.  It was a compelling drama borne out of a quest for interpretive insight.  Margaret Mead made a most interesting protagonist.

Lily gave Teddy almost half the earnings she made helping me cat sit this week.  It was the right thing to do since he came along and played with the cats too, but what fills me with gratitude is that she made the choice of her own volition.

The combination of almond and coconut milk on my cereal.

Honey in my tea.  My tea in a pretty cup.

It's going to be warm enough for a walk tomorrow.  It'll be nice to give the elliptical a break.

A road trip is in the planning stages, but coming this summer.

Tonight I earned back my backgammon title...House Champion.

Packer party on Sunday.

No work or school on Monday.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

2 day pass

for a weekend that held few commitments,
it felt rather full.
i can see i'm existing between polarities.
on one hand, all i want is to sit and soak up the silence...
to put myself in neutral.
on the other, i have this overwhelming urge to kick things into gear and (insert any number of verbs here).
the whole ping pong routine - hurry up and get lots done so you can enjoy doing little - is not my idea of peace.
that's because there is always something more that begs doing.
i find myself questioning what is enough?
i dislike that e word almost as much as the b word...(busy).
suffice it to say that the house is dechristmased, closets are getting organized, lily's new desk is primed and well on the road to beauty, and clearly the doing is winning over the being.
and those are all worthy tasks, but what truly inspires me are the moments i spend before dawn on the frozen beach watching the sun rise and feeling its warmth even in winter, and losing myself for patches of time with a mug of tea and a book...this weekend the compelling Euphoria, and taking the girls to lunch while eavesdropping on their easy conversation, and making big plates of spaghetti and meatballs for the boys after a day of skiing and before a night of open gym, and shopping around the italian market with mike admiring ingredients we might use one day, and gathering together in my dad's great room to watch the packers win.
it's all about finding that balance...
that happy place between being and doing, doing for others and doing for oneself...
between togetherness and solitude...
between observing and creating...
between looking out and looking in.
finding that balance and then maintaining it.

Monday, January 12, 2015

On My Mind Monday

El Condor Pasa

I’d rather be a sparrow than a snail

Yes, I would
If I could
I surely would

I’d rather be a hammer than a nail

Yes, I would
If I only could
I surely would

Away, I’d rather sail away

Like a swan that’s here and gone
A man gets tied up to the ground
He gives the world its saddest sound
Its saddest sound

I’d rather be a forest than a street

Yes, I would
If I could
I surely would

I’d rather feel the earth beneath my feet

Yes, I would
If I only could
I surely would

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Forever and Ever. Alleluia.

There are times I do things because I want to, and times I do things because I have to.  This morning after seeing T. Bone off for a long day of skiing, I found myself bundled up and headed to the beach to watch the sunrise over a Lake Michigan shrouded in sea smoke.  The Wild soundtrack I jubilantly received the day before was in the midst of El Candor Pasa as I left. This song, in particular, has been haunting me since I saw the movie Tuesday.  I surmise that's because it could have been plucked from my own childhood.  Music is one of the main portals to the past.  So many songs are straight gateways to my pains and paths to my pleasures as well.  If I Could leaves me feeling naggingly nostalgic for a youth filled with promise and potential.  A time in my life when I felt protected and whole.  But the honest truth is that even as an innocent young girl, I knew that feeling wouldn't last.  It's been inherent in me for as long as I can remember to understand on a cellular level that things are always changing, and that life is short. 

I am five years old and my mom is toweling me off after a bath.  It is mid-summer.  The air is sweet with lilac blooms and the sun still high in the sky despite the fact it's almost my bedtime.  My mom turns her attention to my younger brother.  I'm watching them from my bed across the room.  She's tickling him and he's giggling.  I smile too, but inside I am sad and scared.  I'm sad and scared because I want us to be this way forever, and even at this tender age, I have a strong inkling that's not possible.  I bring levity to the lightness when I ask what happens when we die.  I blurt it out and everything stands still for a second.  But my mom is not one to gloss over things or tie them up with a pretty bow.  She tells me we are gone then.  Gone forever.  She may mention Heaven, but I cannot say for sure because it doesn't mean much to me yet. I bury my face in my towel to stifle my tears, and the darkness makes me picture a never-ending black hole of nothingness. A void.  "Forever and ever and ever and ever to infinity?" I blubber needing to know while wanting an entirely different answer.  "Yes, forever," she concedes, "But no one is going anywhere for a very long time."  That night and many after, I am deathly afraid to go to sleep.

Yep, all that from one song.  I'll spare you where I went for the other 14 tracks, but suffice it to say it was an emotional drive.  As I pulled up to the beach, I was relieved to see it was deserted.  I'll take -2 degrees any day if it means I can have the sunrise all to myself.  I walked down the path while I watched the giant egg yolk of a sun emerge from the steam hovering over the lake.  The billow looked like a battalion of misty ghosts haunting the horizon.  I wasn't scared like I was that summer night so many years ago though because I know a little more about myself, the world, life.  And when I see the sun burning bright dawn after dawn, I cannot tell you that I think any of our spirits are ever gone forever.  I just cannot.


Friday, January 9, 2015

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

My son, the poet.  He may have let it slip the other night that he's been published.

Taking the long way to work this morning.  The sea smoke over the lake was so otherworldly and beautiful.  I thought about taking a picture, but decided that what I could see with my own two eyes was impossible to capture and keep.

Pasta Bolognese tastes even better after it's been frozen for a couple months as if that's even possible.

Cleaning out the freezer.

Miss Bit was mostly excited to get up every day this week because she had 5 day's worth of new outfits each one cuter than the next.

Nivea hand cream.

Books and the library.

Dellalo whole wheat pasta.  Especially topped with a little roasted broccoli, shredded Pecorino, EVOO and a perfectly poached egg.

Yasso frozen Greek yogurt bars.  I most love the chocolate fudge.

Closet organizers and organizing closets.

New cheaters from the dollar bin at Target.  

Good luck charms especially when they work.  Prayers especially when they are answered.  Grace always.

Better new year habits like healthy eating, less television and simplifying our surroundings.  Taking care of our minds, bodies and spirits.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

January Inventory

Reading  Me Before You.  I started it again last night.  Before the holidays, I read a few chapters and then set it aside.  I've also been paging my way through my new cookbooks Prune and the new Barefoot Contessa both of which are treats.  Slowly I've been digesting Mary Oliver's Blue Horses and I finally read Truman Capote's trio of holiday short stories. Waiting patiently are the House Beautiful kitchen tome and Lamott's short but meaty Bird by Bird.  I plan to read Wild again after being left completely raw by the movie.  The subzero temperatures and gift of this much coveted reading wedge make for almost guilt-free escapes into my growing stack. 

Wondering if we will successfully refinish the desk we bought for Lily's room.  It was a little more work than I thought, but it will be worth it if it turns out.  When we presented the old ugly (but beautifully made) very brown desk to her on Christmas morning, she loved it immediately.  I wondered if she would be disappointed because it wasn't perfect, but I should have known better because that girl never lets perfect ruin good and always sees the good in everyone and everything.  By the time we're through, it'll end up costing about the same as a brand new one, but I like the idea of taking something discarded and giving it a home and new life. 

Noticing that already the sun is suspended a little higher in the sky, and also the way the sky shines pink as we cross the river travelling west at the end of the day.

Watching Master Chef Jr., Top Chef and The Taste still, and sadly the last four episodes of Parenthood soon.  Coach and I watched The Master the other night, and were chawed that we cannot retrieve that chunk of time.  I saw Wild yesterday and while it deserves a post of it's own, I'm still processing the range of emotions it made me feel.  I loved it though and felt that it was a noble adaptation of book to film and also beautifully cast.  I found the fractured storytelling compelling, and was thankful for the moments of comedy amidst the predominance of sadness, struggle and pain..

Listening to a quiet house.  My family made fun of my obsession with Christmas carols this season.  I pretty much had Pandora on 24/7.  That is to say that I got my fill, but I just ordered the Wild soundtrack.  I cannot tell you the last time that I purchased a CD, but I had to have this hauntingly poignant compilation so soon I'll be listening to this and crying in my car.  I concede that I'm a tad consumed.

Eating healthy.  No more cheese and sausage or butter or Christmas cookies.  Well, at least not until Sunday when we go cheer on the Packers in the play offs.  My Dad is making wings.

Drinking lots of water and tea.  I'm grooving on Trader Joe's Candy Cane Green Tea, and I always love Harney and Son's Cinnamon Sunset.

Dreaming about cabinets and countertops.  It's more of a nightmare if I am to be frank.

Feeling strong.

Wanting to stay strong.

Wearing my perfect new wool clogs that were a gift from Mike for Christmas.  Thanks Love!

Hoping that it warms up just a little before the weekend when T. Bone has a much looked forward to ski trip planned.

Thinking that I really don't want to go out in the cold today and that I should probably start putting Christmas away and I need to workout and plan dinner and that I wished I had ordered that CD to be sent priority.

Enjoying a month of serenity and solitude.  January is a month to be cozy and quiet.

Loving $5 Tuesdays at the movies, MyFitnessPal, winter, the way the kids write such thoughtful thank yous even though they groan about the task, the way my cats talk to me, El Condor Pasa, and the way we are all broken and deserve redemption.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

I Might See An Angel At The Movies

I had plans to finally see Wild this afternoon.  Then it snowed over night and it's bone cold outside and I started getting lost in the stack of fabulous new books in my warm and cozy house.  I am reluctant to admit how easily I'm derailed, but there you have it.  Then I happed upon this Mary Oliver poem from Blue Horses:

You might see an angel anytime
and anywhere. Of course you have
to open your eyes to a kind of
second level, but it's not really
hard. The whole business of
what's reality and what isn't has
never been solved and probably
never will be. So I don't care to
be too definitive about anything.
I have a lot of edges called Perhaps
and almost nothing you can call
Certainty. For myself, but not
for other people. That's a place
you just can't get into, not
entirely anyway, other people's
I'll leave you with this.
I don't care how many angels can
dance on the head of a pin. It's
enough to know that for some people
they exist, and that they dance.

I'm easily sidetracked, but also quick to set straight.  I decided I'm going to see Wild after all.  I miss my Mom, I need a good cry and also to know I'm not alone in my grief and sorrow. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

On My Mind Monday

It's bad enough in life to do without something you want; but confound it, what gets my goat is not being able to give somebody something you want them to have.

Truman Capote
A Christmas Memory
And isn't that the beautiful truth? 
Over the numerous Christmas celebrations I was a part of, I thought a great deal about graciousness.  What it means to bestow and how it feels to receive.  Accepting gifts is much more complicated than giving them for so many myself included, but I find that the most generous among us do so with ease and appreciation.  And I'm not just talking about saying thank you although we don't always get that either.  As we mature, the tendency is to want to be the giver, but every time we graciously receive we are being most generous.  At the end of the day whether the gift is grand or the gift is a gesture, it truly is the thought that counts.  I believe that's why my Dad's favorite gift was the bench scraper Miss Bit gave him for his kitchen.  It wasn't expensive monetarily, but the thought made him feel rich.  It said, I know who you are and what you value.  I know you love to cook, and I love it when you cook for me.  Plus it was from his favorite granddaughter.
My brother in law is the biggest kid at Christmas, and an enthusiastic receiver.  He is known to don every stitch of clothing he receives and to make everything he receives somehow wearable.  We tease and joke, but secretly I think he has the right idea. 
My cousin put together a video of old family pictures.  The cost was minimal minus her time, but it was priceless.  It was one of my favorite gifts this year. And I had many favorites this year. Just for the record, I loved most everything I received with a capital L and I hope that the givers felt my gratitude .

Saturday, January 3, 2015


It's my word for 2015.  It's not particularly juicy or provocative.  It's just right.  It's timely as we usher in a new year and also forgiving enough to gently lead me out of what often felt like a stifling 2014.  I spent much of last year feeling stuck.  Words like indecisive, doubtful, powerless and unstable come to mind.  I don't need to be unicorns and rainbows happy all the time, but I am much more comfortable when I feel resolute and strong.  Contentment is what I seek.  Feeling at peace with where I am and where I am going is all I want at the end of the day or year.  2014 was a year that taught me what a tall order equanimity can be.

So this past week I spent a great deal of time mulling things over...not looking back, but rather ahead.  I am a firm believer that what we see is what we create.  That where and how we channel our energy becomes our destiny.  I've been manifesting: looking inward and onward, and it's been heavy.  I didn't read or write for seven days so as not to shift focus or invite distraction.  I also didn't take but a photo or two.  I wasn't much inspired to, but then this morning I woke up to see that it snowed over night.  The inches they predicted arrived and the sub zero temperatures will too, yet as the world around me disappears and freezes, I emerge and thaw.  Here I am feeling inspiration to capture and write words and take move forward into the days ahead that will slowly reclaim more light.