Tuesday, September 29, 2015

September Inventory

Reading I recently finished Hold Still.  Mann's memoir was a little disjointed, but I appreciated her candor and self-awareness especially in light of all the controversy surrounding her.  The pictures of her nude children bothered me less than the photos taken at the body farm. In fact, they bothered me not at all as I saw the greater composition. They weren't nude photos, they were family photos and the children happened to be naked.  The Woman Upstairs was the first book in forever that I finished and then promptly started again.  It's also been awhile since I really appreciated an ending. This is in my top 5 this year.  I read The Folded Clock last week, and was a bit enamored with Julavits.  Her confessional tone made reading this work intimate.  I want to meet her for a coffee or a swim off the Maine coast, and I am afraid of sharks.  I'll definitely be reading some of her fiction in the future, and maybe moving to Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire or Rhode Island one day. Hopefully, writing a book too.  This week I'm enjoying Life From Scratch and The Rocks.

Wondering if there is a natural way to regulate my mood swings.  I'm worn out by the constant ups and downs lately.  I cannot even stand my own company many days.  Then I assume I must be a drag on everyone else too so I retreat and withdraw, perpetuating the vicious cycle.

Noticing that September has elapsed in a blur.  Slowly and then all at once our maple in the front yard turns red.  Soon I'll look down the river and be wowed by a rambling waterway of color.

Watching Season 4 of Homeland, and  trying to exercise portion control.  I really think we're going to have to sign up for Showtime before October 3rd when season 5 starts up again.  Also old faves in the fall line-up like DWTS, Modern Family, Amazing Race and Survivor. There's so little programming a family can enjoy together.

Listening to  Donald Trump insult woman after woman, and I'm getting pretty sick of it too.  Hilary tell lie after lie...I was sick of that years ago.  Just started listening to Undisclosed: The State v. Adnan Syed and liking it better than Serial probably because of the background knowledge I now have with regard to the case.

Eating like it's still summer most of the time.  It's still grilling weather, but soon it will be time for more comfort food.  I have to reacquaint myself with soups and stews.  Last week, I stocked up at our best loved Italian market and felt relief that I didn't have to cook much all week.  Then I felt guilt because cooking is one of the things I do for my family.  It's something I love to do for my family. I have to confess that I baked prefab cookies for the kids' lunches this week.  Lily thought they were the bomb, and I thought they tasted worse than dog food.  But lasagna soup is on tomorrow's menu at the kids' request so things are falling back into place.

Drinking Bragg's cider vinegar starting tomorrow and tons of water. Today is the first day that it feels right to have an afternoon mug of hot tea so I will.

Wanting peace of mind and clarity.  I feel like there are too many balls in the air right now. My mind is muddled.

Wearing layers since in the mornings, evenings and anytime we have a lake breeze, the air is cool.

Hoping that we have a nice day for the Badger game Saturday.  It's been a long time since I've been back to Camp Randall and I'd appreciate appropriate football weather: cool, cloudy and dry.  Thank you.

Thinking that Sasha Martin's blog, Global Table Adventure, might be just the place to find some much needed meal planning inspiration. I've bookmarked numerous recipes that I think the whole family will enjoy preparing and eating together.  I appreciate the way she makes these somewhat exotic recipes accessible to everyday home cooks.  I'm also thinking about how I'm going to replicate the  Short Rib Risotto Jess and I enjoyed at The Cooper's Hawk last week when she took me for dinner on my Mom's birthday.  

Enjoying #talesofseptember on Instagram, and the kind, caring community connected by this hashtag.  This week's super moon event. Green rice, which is brown rice with kale adapted from the GOOP goddess and good with everything, but especially topped with a perfectly poached egg.  Broody skies.  Morning and evening walks with my guy, and also sitting beside him on the sidewalk sharing breakfast at the Pleasant Cafe instead of walking.

Loving  The way Teddy is loving cross country and motivated to break 20. He did over the weekend on our hilly home course.  The way Miss Bit is excited for swimming and eager to get to the pool after a day at school.  That both my kids are hardworking and self-motivated.  I don't have to police their assignments or grades because they are on top of it all.

Monday, September 28, 2015

On My Mind Monday

You can outdistance that which is running after you, but not what is running inside of you.

~ Rwandan proverb

Friday, September 25, 2015

Can I Ask You Something?

Twilight is the perfect time for pretending you live somewhere you don't.  The sky guard is changing, security is relaxed, and everyone's just had a cocktail.  In the gloaming, there is slippage.

~Heidi Julavits
The Folded Clock

This is my favorite description of my most loved minutes of the day.  As the sun descends from 6 to 18 degrees below the horizon, the last remaining light dances magically throughout the atmosphere. Between day and darkness, there is a lapse.  What was is suspended momentarily between light and night so that for a split second it is both: day and dark.  A split second so precise that if you blink, you'll miss the day's departure and the night's onfall.  Blink and you miss the illusion of infinity and glimpse of life beyond limits.  Blink and the day simply extinguishes.  It ceases to exist.

Every time I witness this changing of the guard I feel woozy and light headed.  It's as if I've been under water holding my breath.  When I come up for air and take that greedy gulp, I feel clear, and sharp and alive.  I think of the standstill second my mom went from being here to there.  I see myself standing on a cliff or pier reluctant to take the plunge like I've been so many times in my life literally and figuratively.  In the split second I go from being dry to wet, from all out to all in, I'm free falling. I have rocks in my pockets and I'm light as feather in the same instant.   I'm flying.  I'm falling. How can I be both?  How can I not?

It occurs to me in these moments of overlap and incongruity that time is a commodity, a dimension,  and a sensation.  In the second it takes to select the send button or to hit delete, I ask myself...I ask you: who would you be, if you weren't who you are?  And then, why aren't you that? 

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

My faithful reading buddy.

 (He is always waiting for me to cuddle.)

Her faithful bedtime buddy. 

(Peanut finally discovered the foot of Lily's bed and she's so happy that after 7 years, her cat is sleeping with her at night.)

His homework companion.

(In between problems, he receives pets.)

Crossword puzzles and Sudoku's.  I'm proficient in one and deficient in the other.

Seeing the sunrise from the beach on the first day of fall.

(Do you spy the swimmer and the gull?)

The perfect lunch: a baked potato topped with Greek yogurt and chives.

The perfect dinner: Korean grilled chicken with green rice (brown rice with kale) and sweet steamed carrots.

A dinner date with Jess on my Mom's birthday.  We ate delicious food, drank wine, toasted and talked.

(Pictured here are Asian Pork Belly Tostadas and an almost empty wine flight.  Soon the tostadas were gone, and the wine replenished.)

A Happy Birthday for my Dad last week too!  He cooked surf and turf for us on his birthday on a beautiful end of summer night.  He likes giving more than receiving.

Shopping around the city with Lily last Saturday.  We visited some of our favorite neighborhoods and markets for all the essentials: cupcakes, wine, aged balsamic, good Parm., fresh bread, and EVOO.

(She shops, carries and poses, and she only asks for one or maybe two treats.)

Thunder and lightning.

(From my bedroom window before bed.)

Mother Nature's wonders.

A beautiful weekend ahead of us.  We're been enjoying the perfect end of summer mix of warm days and cool mornings and evenings.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Can I Tell You Something?

It's been a rough week.  But it's also been a rich one.  Rich in the sense of bountiful, expansive and humbling. Humbling because I thought I was rocking it to my Mom's birthday (21st) and straight through her Heaven day (28th) all I got this like the warrior of a woman I pretend to be.  The truth is, I'm less brave champion and more soft schlemiel so I wasn't really surprising myself.  I was, however, trying to trick myself.  A dose of humble pie and honesty is always cathartic, thus welcome. I know intellectually that sometimes the anniversaries we expect to evoke sadness just don't.  Grief is a major opportunist that is forever lurking ready to pounce, but often does so when least expected.  That randomness is exactly what makes it so crippling.  The truth is I think about my Mom everyday and I'm always missing her. Seven years later...her birthday is just another day she's absent from my life. The sadness I feel about this is to my core and constant so in a way I've just gotten used to it and maybe even accepted it.  It's part of my reality...my history.  It's also part of my story that I honor and feel and remember the experiences and relationships that make me who I am.

I needed to celebrate my Mom this year.  I needed to acknowledge her in a meaningful way. This morning when I woke in the dark before my alarm, I knew what I needed to do.  I made my way to the beach for sunrise.  I cannot think of a more beautiful reminder of the wonder of it all.  Sitting there watching the birth of a new day fills me with swells of hope.  I'm buoyed up by the sense that the very best way to check grief is to look for peace, warmth and joy in every new day.  To show up, notice and give thanks.

I didn't expect to be alone on such a beautiful 50 degree morning, but I was a little surprised to find myself in the company of so many swimmers.  The water cannot be much warmer than the air on this first day of fall. The rhythmic cutting of their arms as they sliced through the water sounded like soft undulating waves and was mesmerizing.  The calm of the scene was interrupted by the less predictable calls of the gulls and the hollers of two young men.  They were making their way from the beach to an island of rocks for a better view and I envied them the traipse through the numbing water to their front row pew.  I don't think they realized the way voices carry over the lake.  I listened to their banter at first with annoyance and then acceptance. After all, something brought them to the beach on this morning to bear witness as well.  It was probably a dare, but I may have settled on a more sanguine story.

I was on the beach on my bench just in time for the sun to sneak up over the horizon at 6:39.  The series of photographs below was taken by 6:44.  What I want to tell you is that it only takes 5 minutes for the new day to dawn.  It only takes 300 seconds to come back to life.  Now that...that is something.

Friday, September 18, 2015

To Be Young

Ted's cross country meet was in the park near our house last night so Lily and I rode our bikes over to cheer him on.  It was my first time as a spectator of this sport and I loved seeing him in action.  I was surprised by how exciting it was.  Despite the fact that it's an individual sport, the team spirit is present and palpable. Seeing him in a Nicolet uniform made this all very real.  'This" being high school. Our home course is a tough one, but Ted was still not happy that he added 20 some seconds to his best time.  He just started running a month ago and is finishing a 5K in 20 minutes, but he yearns for 19.  Oh to be young.  It started to sprinkle and then rain while we waited at Miss Bit's insistence for all runners to complete the race.  God forbid she not cheer them all on (and especially the stragglers) equally and enthusiastically.  As we rode home in the pouring rain she told me, "I'm just so proud of Teddy!"  And then she said, "Isn't riding bikes in the rain so fun!?!"  Oh to be young.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Better Than Modern Family

There was no question that Mike and I would tune into the debate last night.  It's important that we stay informed and we both enjoy a little political sparring. Maybe not 15 months or 3 hours worth, but that's a topic to tackle another time.  After her homework was complete, Lily joined us and as God is my witness she said, 'This is so fun!"  Yep.  Fun.  Ted sauntered in eventually, and he too stayed for much longer than I would have at his age clearly engaged.  So it was as a family that we watched the bulk of the debate, and no one even asked to change the channel.  She did ask if Donald Trump was for real running for president, and he asked what Planned Parenthood was.  It lead to some important discussion.

When I was a kid, I had only vague political knowledge.  I was aware of my parent's political affiliations, and who they were voting for, and that I should not talk about it on the playground under any circumstances.  It was hard to be unaware when my Mom not only put bumper stickers on her car (with tape mind you), but had her own clever slogans designed and produced on them.  My Mom who hated bumper stickers with a passion that apparently paled in comparison to her political fervor.  Nonetheless, political discussion was relegated to the world of adults, and once in awhile I overheard banter back and forth, but it didn't concern or interest me.

When I became interested in politics in college, some of the awards I won and the views I held must have made my parent's cringe, but to their credit, they never let on.  They let me form my own opinions and draw my own conclusions trusting that the values imparted to me in my upbringing would inform and guide me, or that eventually I'd become a taxpayer myself with skin in the game.  I love it that my kids show some interest in being informed, and when they ask what "we" are or what "we" think, I am careful to answer, "I" am or "I" think.

This morning at breakfast Lily was still incredulous over the fact that Donald Trump thinks he can be president.  Before, digging into her yogurt, she rolled her eyes, guffawed and said, "You're fired!  No way! Just no way."

Monday, September 14, 2015

On My Mind Monday

There's no burning up the layered memory trace of smell and taste.

~Sally Mann
Hold Still

Apples first remind me of my Grandma Rose because she introduced me to apple crisp.  I remember sitting at her kitchen table with a cafe au lait.  We weren't so sophisticated with Starbuck's speak back then, but that is what it was: coffee with a generous glug of milk.  I was all of 8 or 9 and already well aware that the kitchen was the heart of the home, or where the magic happened. Rosie would empty the oven, which she used as a breadbox when it wasn't in use, and slide in that jelly roll pan of sugared apple goodness.  In 20 minutes, she'd give me the first bowl.  In 25 minutes, she'd pop me a few papaya pills: her remedy for over indulgence. It's a warm and cozy memory that has persisted while others have perished over the years.

Apples remind me of Thanksgiving too.  Every year my Mom would buy the poster child of apple pies baked in a brown paper bag from the Elegant Farmer.  It was special and we loved it even if usually not until breakfast the day after the feast.  Now the pies are everywhere, but I don't mind because when I see them, I think of my Mom.  If she were here she'd be all, "I discovered those pies you know."

Apples also remind me of fall in Door County.  Not one particular visit, but just being on the bright peninsula with a chill in the air.  The orchards line the highways and the roadside stands sell apple everything.  My favorite season is fall and my favorite place to visit before winter descends is Door County.  Mike and I have been there many times and in every season, but there is something so bucolic and storied about that place at that time of year.  It is quintessential charm and comfort.

Last year Lily, Jess and I picked apples on a beautiful fall day that happened to mark the sixth anniversary of my mom's death.  It was a beautiful day that was more sweet than bitter.  The apple haul we made lasted us through the new year.  The memories, they still linger.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

It's Friday!  This week was rougher than last week.  The first week we were a bit in denial and still existing on summer adrenaline, but the reality of homework and meetings and meets materialized this week.

Luckily we have another long weekend thanks to Rosh Hashanah.  Unlike last weekend, we have lots of free time, and I plan to keep it that way.

That being said last weekend was filled with fun.  We had a beautiful day at the beach with family Saturday.  Sunday we enjoyed a bbq bash at my Aunt and Uncle's.

The 48 mosquito bites I got at the bonfire are finally calming down.

Lanacane and Benadryl.

The word mezze and this platter.

I enjoyed a completely lazy day Monday. I read Among Ten Thousand Things which held promise, but failed to deliver.  The premise was compelling, but the delivery fell flat for me.  Then I watched three movies.  Tracks, which was based on Robyn Davidson's memoir, was a touching tale about human strength and frailty, and the cinematography was swoon worthy.  Time Lapse was solid sci-fi storytelling even if it there were a few loopholes. Identity, a psychological thriller, scared me a little, and was much better than I expected.

I was able to laze around all day because the kids were golfing and swimming with my brother and sil.  Many thanks for doting aunts and uncles.

And then we ordered pizza two ways because the kitchen was closed.

This piece from last Sunday's NY Times Magazine about togetherness and presence.  It really hit home as to why it is good to go away.

Ellen and Jimmy.  They'd both be on the short list of my dream team celebrity dinner party dossier.

A quick date with my guy at a local speakeasy after back-to-back back to school nights.  Both kiddos are in good hands and places school speaking.

Boy and cat.

Cat and remote control helicopter.

Cat and bouquet.

It's a broody, moody fall-like day.  The weekend forecast is perfect for apple picking, reading, hiking and dabbling in a few fall recipes.  Football watching too.

Then summer returns next week by way of the 70s and 80s, and that sounds rather lovely too.  Another swim might even be on the horizon.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

August in an Instagram

Every year August seems to pass at warp speed.  It seems beyond reason that 31 days can come and go with such velocity and then leave a lasting impression.  But the do...they did.  Here is the evidence.

1. After the boys won the State Tournament, we traveled to regionals in Indiana with the team for the better part of a week.

2. They played hard and well.  Ted showed up on the mound and his pitching was on fire. He held it together under pressure at times I wasn't sure he'd be able to, and we received many compliments from other coaches and tournament officials about him and our team.

3. We spent lots of time at the ball park.  And then after we failed to advance, we watched the Little League World Series somewhat obsessively.

4.  In our downtime we spent time at the pool, the go kart park or mini golfing so basically there was no down time.  Grandpa came down and he and Lily spent lots of time at Culvers too.  The boys were inseparable hanging out in one room or another unless they were sleeping.  Win or lose, they won. We won.

5. Lily had a little too much fun driving that go kart imo.

6. Mike coached Ted for the last time, and ended his coaching career (for now) with a smile on his face.

7. After the boys won State, we drove 1300 miles to Montana.

8. We explored Yellowstone, rode horses through the back country, rafted down the Yellowstone River and had a fantastic, filled to the brim few days.

9. Despite our tight schedule, we managed to see most of the "must sees" and a few on our own radar.  Here are Ted and Lil at Artist Point, a definite must see.

10. Ted the river rat wearing his bucket hat.  We swam in the Gardner and Yellowstone Rivers and had some of the most fun just playing in the water at the end of the long, hot days.

11. Lily turned 11 and got her own phone mostly for my convenience and not at all because practically every other sixth grader has one already fyi.

12. I turned 46 when all summer I thought I was turning 47.  I got a free year so I better make it count!

13. I went all the way to YNP and saw countless bison, but it wasn't until I was back in Wisconsin that I was charged by a bull, and let me tell you, they are fast, fierce and mighty.

14. The Shalom Wildlife Preserve is our new favorite place nonetheless.  I won't be visiting the county zoo any longer.  The animals had huge, natural habitats and they just seemed happier.  We could feed anything with hooves or beaks and so we fed and petted, moose, deer, emu, pigs, wild horses, reindeer, ducks, goats, burros, rabbits, skunk and llamas.  We played with raccoon and fox too.

15. We finally found the time to visit our favorite beaches.

16. And also the State Fair on a beautiful 90 degree day.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

A smooth transition into the new school year.  Well, mostly smooth.  There was a little too much hitting the snooze on Ted's part, a little disorganization on Lily's part and as for my part...I sent her to school with an empty lunch box one day and no water bottle the next (oh and it was 90 degrees). That being said, he was ready for his ride even if by the grace of you know who, her paperwork was found and completed, and she got hot lunch and used the bubbler.  We all survived.


Lots of lake time the past couple weeks especially the Back to School Plunge and also that Mike finally got to experience a night we rave about year after year.



Coach's  not coaching anymore so from here on out Coach will be Mike.

A mid-week movie night.  We watched the Da Vinci Code and it was quite compelling.

A visit to Shalom Wildlife Preserve the last week of summer vacation when it wasn't so summery. We planned to go to Lake Michigan, but it was only a stinking 60 degrees out so we changed course.  It was an animal oasis not far from town and we all loved our time there even though I was charged by a bison and Lily was gnawed on by an albino skunk.

The By The Book Column in The NY Times Book Review.

I got rid of the ugly, furry black spider that was so big I heard him scurrying across the grass cloth on my bedroom wall.  The minute I moved he made a mad dash and so did I.  I don't think I'd have been able to sleep in my room for at least a week if he got away.  Despite the fact that it was already 10 o'clock and I was settling down to read, I got out the Dyson and even vacuumed behind the furniture.

A clean room.

My Dad for reminding me how delicious potatoes on the grill can be.  He made them on Sunday and I was thinking about them until I made them again Wednesday.  They were gone by Thursday.


The way that Sally Mann's memoir has me thinking about art, memory, family history and storytelling.

The way the cats curl up beside me day or night.

A long holiday weekend.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

I Want to Spend the Rest of My Life Alive

On the way to the lake, I was a little grouchy.  I was almost sure that I wouldn't be able to get in after barely managing to muster the nerve to dunk a mere toe the day before. I was already disappointed in myself...in my inevitable, inherent failure. Coach joined Lily and me for our third annual first day of school eve swim that from here on out shall be known as the Back to School Plunge.  The two of them went straight to the pier to jump in at Lily's urging.  She has faith in herself and this ritual whether or not Lake Michigan cooperates.  Before long they were in and then out shivering on the wet stone. Then in and then out.  Shivering either way.

I am not a leaper.  I lack blind trust and shy away from loss of control.  I have to resist holding too tight to the notion that where I am is better than where I may go.  I have to talk myself out of safety and predictability and into potential and possibility.  So I started to wade in slowly, but rather surely.  The sharp rocks were harder to handle than the bone numbing water temps.  It's funny how one pain can mitigate another.  I'm pretty sure that's how so many of us end up in therapy at one point or another in our lives.

Before long, Lily was beside me and Coach was getting the camera because he didn't think I'd muster the mettle or the nerve either and here I was.  She said to me, "Mom, if you just go in to here (thighs), then it's going to be a good year."  This swim is much more than a swim.  It's a ritual.  I smiled deep in my heart because it was clear to me that she gets this.  This is special. It's not just about being weightless...it's about releasing the heaviness.  Its not just about getting wet...it's about getting purified.  It's not just about overcoming the numbness in my digits and my limbs...it's about feeling...feeling everything.

As I briefly stalled, she encouraged me, "Just think of rainbows and butterflies."  It wasn't lost on me that I used those very things to describe her countenance earlier in the day.  Universe...let me catch my breath please, I imploredI studied her profile while she looked up at the clouds for a telltale formation.  One year there were angel wings, another year an angel that became a dove before our eyes.  There weren't many clouds this night, but then she saw it.  It was a heart with wings she decided, very satisfied...only to me it was a bird.  A white bird in the blue sky just as well a bluebird and that was what I needed to go under.

When I came up I was exhilarated and proud and a tad stunned.  Back on the beach, I watched them return to the pier to jump off.  Jump in.  I thought next year I'm doing that too.  I want to do that.  I need to do it.

Then before long I was drawn to the lake again.  Lily met me on my way back out to the hazy horizon and decided we needed to dive in together.  We did.  It was just as rousing.  "Again!" she spirited.  Again we went under bracing against the cold and toward feeling bone chillingly alive.