Monday, December 28, 2015

A White New Year

Today I woke a whole hour later than a normal Monday and to noticeable darkness.  As I sit here with my cup of coffee, I can detect the faintest of flurries wafting in the finally chilly air.  Rumor has it snow, and lots of it, is in today's forecast.  That will please the skiers and sledders in my household. Me too, I think, although now that I see it accumulating I'm not entirely sure.


After a whirlwind weekend of birthday celebrations both for Jesus and T. Bone, it is back to reality for me.  I think I'm ready, but again I'm not 100 percent sure.  If I'm being honest though, I surmise there is very little about which I am absolutely certain of especially at this time of year when I'm caught between looking back and moving forward.  This last week of the year is always as much about penance as it is about celebration.


Looking back over the last few days I do get that warm fuzzy feeling.  That is to say it was a very merry and bright Christmas. I keep visiting the memories made.  They are keepers.  I will remember sitting between my my brother and my son during Christmas Eve mass all year.  It meant a great deal to me to have my brother and sister-in-law join us for this tradition that is one of my best loved and most meaningful of the season. Something stirs within me when we open with Adeste Fideles and then close with Hark the Herald Angels Sing.  I like to close my eyes and imagine what the celebratory chorus of our voices on Earth sounds like in Heaven.  The joy and the energy is resounding and uplifting.  It has to be heard.  I'll also remember the touching words my brother offered to each of us gathered around his table one by one before dinner later that night.  I felt very blessed indeed.  Everything was intentional and beautiful...delicious and thoughtful. Special.


Christmas morning Lily came to wake us, but we were already awake and just waiting for the kids to rouse. We had to wake Ted who thinks nothing of sleeping the morning away perhaps even on Christmas.  We took our time opening our bounty of gifts.  Santa delivered even without advance notice of desires or accounting of behavior.  The cats made sport of the empty boxes and discarded ribbon, and maybe had the best time of all.  I do believe we were all sufficiently spoiled and we still had two Christmases to go.


Go we did and too soon.  We were due for brunch at Grandma and Grandpa's where we were met by quite a spread.  More presents too.  Lily enjoyed the year of the boot and scarf.  She yielded five of each.  For Teddy, it was the year of golf and PS4.  He said in passing that he now feels the pressure to play well and make the team.  I think the best part was the white elephant exchange.  My Uncle kicked it off by opening a selfie stick despite the fact that I doubt he has ever taken one.  Lily ended up with it and I must confess it has gotten much use.


We arrived home long enough to sleep, make another dish and head out for our last Christmas Saturday.  It was another fun family gathering.  My niece and my nephew are now old enough to have a beer, and that just makes me feel plum ancient.  The years amble on and I scarcely see that I am older until I am presented such stark evidence.


Evidence like a 15 year old child.  I was up to wish Teddy a Happy Birthday as the 26th became the 27th.  Years are minutes I tell you.  We had an impromptu party yesterday in his honor.  So spontaneous that the lemon cake he requested went unfulfilled.  We ordered pizza and ate carrot cake instead, and I got to test out my new, but still unfinished kitchen.  The flow is good.


Life is good.  We are blessed with another Merry Christmas, one more year, the prospect of a Happy New Year, and 10-12 inches.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Tis' the Season

Today we wake on the other side of darkness.  Each day will yield a little more light.  So many see this as a turning point.  I see it as a reminder of the serious interior work to do in the cold months ahead. This is not a negative, but it is solemn and heavy.


Last night Lily read The Last Straw to me before bed.  I kept nodding off during the short story of Hoshmakaka's journey to Bethlehem only to be roused by her questions. "What's gout?" "What's sciatica?"  I answered wondering if I was delirious and then when she asked again, what kind of Christmas tale this was.  I tucked her in and she asked me what she should dream about, but before I could respond she said, "Never mind.  I know.  I'm gonna dream about Christmas break."  I dreamt that my house was on fire, and then about a pack of rabid dogs and a sick squirrel.


Today is the last day of school before Christmas break.  I'm sorry if that offends, but I cannot bring myself to say winter when it feels more like spring.  I think we are all ready for a holiday from homework and alarm clocks.  Making lunches too.  Today Ted skipped breakfast because he had a fiesta first hour, and yet he still made his ride wait.  By January 4th, he's going to be ready and waiting curbside.  Now I am delirious.


Lily is so kind.  When we went to light candles before church she knew I would light one for my Mom and then she wondered whom the second might be for. I paused a moment and she offered, "Are you going to light it for Candace's friend who died."  My heart skipped a beat as I replied, "Yes, that's exactly who I will light it for."  Thank you thoughtful, empathetic child of mine for keeping my heart tender. She wrote the nicest message on her Sunday school teacher's Christmas card too praising her for her patience and thoughtfulness.  She read it to me and I felt verklempt.  That only lasted a minute though because then I realized Ted didn't even know his teacher's name.  I'm not sure if that's a boy/girl thing or a tween/teen thing.


Yet he's kind too.  I picked him up from school  Friday and took him to get Lily's Christmas gift.  It was a a two part present one part being much pricier than the other so I offered to pony up for the more expensive item.  He accepted , but only after I insisted.  Not all siblings can give happily and generously to one another at this stage of life.


My kids get it that giving is more important and just as much fun (almost) as receiving.  Both of them take time picking out gifts for family members and friends that are meaningful.  My heart swells because as parents we have worked hard to instill this within them.  When they were little, they made ornaments and crafts and proudly handed them out.  Now they save their earnings and allowance to be able to participate in holiday exchanges.  It's a beautiful thing to be generous.


The more we give the more we receive.  Isn't that what they say? Lily received two Christmas bonuses from her one and only very much adored client.  She's available whenever he needs her and on short notice and that gives him peace of mind.  That same adage likely applies to my sad stack of Christmas cards.  I haven't sent cards in years so now we don't receive many.  I like getting them, but not enough to send them again.


Tis' the point in the season where I want to hit pause.  I want a hush not all the hype and rush.  There is so much goodness overflowing and overwhelming, and I want to sit with it and truly give it the time and attention it deserves.

Monday, December 21, 2015

2 day pass

the weekend was full...full of a little of this and a little of that.
the whole family attended a christmas cookie decorating party at the onset.
lily almost stayed home, and then ended up having the most fun decorating cut outs too cute to eat.
almost too cute because they are also delish.
were delish save for a few saved for santa.
saturday we woke to seasonal temps that were rather shocking given the lack of bone chilling weather patterns thus far this year.
we bundled up for her last riding lesson of the semester.
cinnamon was still a little lame so hopefully she'll get the rest she needs before riding resumes next year.
i cannot believe i'm already saying that.
mike and i spent the afternoon wrapping.
it was a bit more of a challenge this year given the dearth of boxes and tissue offered by retailers, and the number of online purchases.
i think at this point he's wishing he kept his paper prowess under wraps oh so many years ago because i definitely take advantage of his skills.
we got most everything wrapped and then fell into exhaustion so severe we were catatonic as the debate limped along unable to change the channel, and the party we were supposed to attend likely raged on without us.
teddy went out for an overnight and lily invited a friend in.
i managed to get a second wind and stay awake for a viewing of the family guy.
somewhere i read that it was a top 10 christmas movie.
it was cute, but miscategorized.
we were up early for the last sunday of advent.
even ted who i later learned had just barely fallen asleep when i announced our arrival.
the highlight of the mass was humming silent night at the recessional.
mike and i made sandwiches for the homeless with other parishioners and still had time for a quick breakfast during sunday school.
ted went to workout and shop with his uncle, and lily and i went to finish up some shopping.
her shopping is complete and ted's is almost done.
i think i'm done, but i'm not committing to it quite yet.
in other words, i'm done unless i find myself in a store in the next few days.
my brother and sister in law came in for a cocktail when they dropped ted off.
he promptly passed out on the floor in front of the christmas tree and slept through dinner.
jess joined us.
mike grilled ribs that we picked up the day before straight from the country butcher we love.
i made a spinach pie and a salad with homemade ranch dressing.
dessert for the adults was a glass of the delicious irish cream i made earlier in the day.
after jess left and the rest of my family was fast asleep, i sat admiring the tree feeling extra thankful that my brother noticed it was leaning at about a 15 degree angle earlier.
i also was thinking about  the holy truth of these adrienne rich words...
we are moving towards the solstice and there is so much here i still do not understand.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

Rituals and traditions.  Lily and I like reading together before bed.  Sometimes aloud and others not. When the kids were little, we would read Christmas books every night in December.  We started a little late this year and we've missed a few, but we're getting through many of our favorites.  There are some real treasures.

The skies.  They have been showy.

These faces.

This week our new windows were installed and I am much more excited than I ever expected to be about windows.

A stack of Christmas movies for the weekend.  Every year I have to watch Elf, but I picked up an old favorite, Prancer and also White Christmas, which I have never seen.

We have a cookie decorating party to attend tonight.  It's the perfect year since we are down a kitchen.  I hope Lily gets her sprinkle and icing fix.

Simplifying and decluttering.  Mike Craig Listed our treadmill this week and sold it.

A mid week dinner out with Jess even if the night turned more comical than festive.  Ted morphed into a stand up comedian who sounded like Obama and sitting next to Lily was like sitting next to Ellen or Roseanne.  We came home and sat by the tree.  Jess, known in these parts as the Do Diva, braided Lily's hair so it would be kinky the next day.  All the sudden she looked at the clock and we realized it was way past our bedtime on a school night.

Lily with kinky hair.  It was super cute.  We tried it again the next night, but the consensus was that Jess is Hair Queen Supreme.

This preparation of spaghetti squash.  Bake it at 350 for an hour in a water bath.  Then scoop it out of the shell.  Add some butter, Parmesan, minced garlic and s&p.  Put it in a baking dish and top with provolone.  Bake for 10 minutes until the cheese melts.  This would also be delish with a side of marinara, but I was too lazy to go upstairs and outside to get some.

It snowed on my way to work today.  Flurried.  I was listening to Adele's new album and became verklempt.  What can I say?  It's a good album and I love snow.

I will make my final trip to UPS today and all, but two of my online purchases have arrived.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Diary of a New Kitchen - Part II

Slowly, but ever so surely we're seeing progress in our kitchen.  The room has gone from down to the studs, to a bare box, to a space with character and continuity.  In the past few weeks, the cabinets have been installed and the floors laid.  Now we are seeing details added like trim work and molding.  There have been a couple minor bumps in the process, but overall we are pleased and excited.  We have yet to regret a single choice.

The basement kitchen is now lovingly called Cutthroat Kitchen.  I believe that moniker is self-explanatory, yet I'm rather inspired by some of the delicious meals that have been created under the circumstances. Never mind that at times I feel more like a sherpa than a chef.

Below are some of the most recent photos complete with plenty of Peanut and Tigger photobombs. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

December 16, 2015

Nine days until Christmas, and I'm still in search of that dose of good, old fashioned Christmas spirit.
The kind that can fill me up with equal parts wonder and delight.  The kind that inspires me to say Merry Christmas to strangers, to attend parties with bells on, and warms the cockles of  my heart at the sight of snow. 


It's lush and green like late spring here as we quickly near towards the winter solstice.  Little Red, pictured above, has yet to even contemplate a long winter nap.  Ski trips have been cancelled three weeks in a row, and we have not yet dug out our Smart Wool or Cuddle Duds.  It's not exactly reason to complain, but I think that's exactly what I'm doing.  The deluge we've been experiencing is reminding me of Noah not Santa.


The kids haven't written their letters to Santa.  I'm not pushing it for obvious reasons, but the Polar Express has done wonders for suspended belief.  I'm equal parts giddy to fess up and working overtime to keep it alive.  Oh, and I'm 100 percent heart broken over what will be the end of an era.


Last night Fred took a cache of selfies on Lily's I Pad and it really made her morning.  It made my morning too because seeing her eyes light up is manna for my soul.  Ted, on the other hand, didn't get up until his ride was waiting in the driveway.  Clearly he's at the stage of life where sleep trumps elves and breakfast.


I found myself back in bed and then back to sleep after a few pages of my book once the house was empty.  I didn't intend to submit to such sloth as I have a long list of to dos just like everyone else in the universe, but I am weak and a little bit sad.


In my dream last night, I was waiting for my Mom.  I knew she was going to come so I opened a special bottle of wine to share with her, which if you knew my Mom is downright hilarious.  So I was sitting in anticipation.  It was getting later and later and Christmas Eve was almost Christmas Day.  I was having anxiety that she would not be coming.  Then I realized that she wouldn't be coming because she was gone.  Dead.  The sadness of my dream lingered upon my waking. Ho! Ho! Ho!


Just like there are years that ask questions and years that answer them, there are years that the heaviness comes and sits on my heart.  Grief is showing up this year and refusing to be subdued, stuffed, or squashed.


The house isn't empty anymore.  Ralph is here.  Like Jesus, he is a carpenter only he closely resembles Santa.  He's traded in his 80s rock for Christmas music today so even though my eyes are blurry with tears, I am feeling a little lighter.  


I am looking forward to tonight.  Ted, Lily and I have a date to meet Jess for dinner downtown and then a light tour.  I will find some Christmas spirit if it's the last thing I do. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

2 day pass

this weekend was likely a new norm:
all of us making our own plans and then making some time for one another.
it's the reality of life with a tween and a teen.
while they both spent friday and saturday evening with friends,
mike and i enjoyed dinner at my brother and sister in law's one night,
and dinner out with friends another-
all of us remarking that it was a nice change of pace to have adult time.
gaudete sunday's sermon centered around joy...
jesus, others and you.
after church, ted went to workout with his uncle and the rest of us went to the public market to view the gingerbread house display.
i wasn't wowed like last year, yet i'm hardly capable of replicating a single one of them.
then lily and i accomplished the lion share of her christmas shopping.
she's a generous and thoughtful gift giver.
i'm seriously in denial that the holiday is almost here.
i blame that on the weather and the chaos of home remodeling.
there is no snow, there are no cookies, there is little peace and no parties in our home.
if the rain that fell over the weekend were snow, we'd be buried.
but mike had no problem firing up the grill sunday night to bbq our chicken.
next weekend will be the last before christmas.
it'll be busy with parties and shopping and wrapping...
none of which i am particularly feeling these days, and yet i'm not exactly dreading any of it either.
the thing is i am not keen about feeling ambivalent during what is often called the most wonderful time of the year.
i am not a ba humbug kinda girl.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

November Inventory

Reading lots.  Since my last inventory, I've been busy.  I read most of Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic.  Although I didn't finish it, my takeaway was that to live a truly creative life one must choose the path of curiosity not that of fear.  I was reading Bill Clegg's Did You Ever Have A Family in tandem with Gilbert's tome, and it high jacked me, thus turning me into a one book woman.  Since being touched by the amount of grace the characters displayed in Clegg's must read book, I've been back on a fiction kick. I followed up with Fates and Furies, which kept the bar high.  Groff's novel was a gem in most every category.  Unfortunately, The Good Neighbor fell awfully flat for reasons I cannot reveal here without ruining the novel for anyone that might like to read it.  It was a small two day investment so nothing to really gripe about.  Read it if Girl on the Train and Gone Girl are your thing.  I've cobbled through some of Voracious.  I expected Nicoletti's combination of cooking and literature to speak to me loud and clear, but a third of the way through I'm not finding ample meat on the bone,  I'm probably giving up in order to get through Girl in the Woods and Boys in the Trees.  May as well begin and end the year with my best loved genre of all...the memoir.  I may try and finish The Art of Tidying Up as well.

Wondering not if, but when it will feel like winter.  It's been in the 40s and 50s this week.  I'm not complaining, but the spring weather at the end of fall is making it hard to believe that Christmas is in a couple weeks.  I'm a four season girl and I'm ready for a little cold and snow.

Noticing that I don't really love big parties all.  It was my company Christmas gathering last night.  It was very nice to see and chat with a good many of the attendees, but I had anxiety before and exhaustion after.  I am just much more at ease in more intimate settings. 

Watching  Simon and Garfunkel Live at Central Park on PBS. We came across it Saturday night and it was so nostalgic.  I love when music connects the generations.  Our parents introduced us to Paul and Art when we were young and we've done the same with our kids.

Listening to the Christmas classics sung by the legendary crooners.

Eating to live not living to eat.  But have you tried those chocolate covered Ritz crackers?  I was watching a Christmas cookie baking competition on the Food Network the other day and I had such a taste for some of our favorites.  Nonetheless, 
we won't be turning the basement kitchen into Martha's work shop, but I felt permission to do what I never do: consume store bought cookies.

Drinking coffee, water, hibiscus tea and wine in that order.

Wanting to finish my shopping.  The lion share is done including the kids, but I have a couple near impossible people in my family still to shop for, and I have zero desire and no plan to stroll around the mall in search of inspiration. I went to send a couple boxes the other day and was shocked at the cost of shipping.

Wearing lots of black.  A little grey.

Hoping that we love all the choices we made in the design of our new kitchen.  So far so good.  Cabinets were finished yesterday.  I love them.  The floors go in tomorrow.  Granite and back splash in two weeks.  Then it will be finishing touches like fixtures and hardware.

Thinking that we're born dying, that never's a liar and how strange the things we remember versus the things we forget.

Enjoying Fred, our elf, just a little, reminiscing as I pull out all the decorations we have lovingly accumulated over the years, holiday traditions and time together.  

Loving a month filled with moment after moment of gratitude.  A little evidence of joy moments below.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

2 day pass

we (minus ted who was awol the first 2/3) mostly stayed close to home this weekend...
doing the things we do this time of year.
things like wrapping and decorating and baking.
i was lily's kitchen assistant as she whipped up nanny's pumpkin bars.
lily and i trimmed her tree with her vast array of animal ornaments.
this year st. nick delivered a swimmer in her stocking.
she proudly placed her front and center on the tree and mused how apropos it was following her two first places and an overall team win in saturday's meet.
teddy appreciated his runner too as far as i could tell, but far less than his new running shoes or his chunky kit kat bar.
fred returned ever the shyster.
lily was already anticipating all his antics.
coach got the lights on the bushes outside and the tree inside.
we were set to hang the ornaments, but decided to wait until ted could help.
because ted actually wanted to help.'s true.
there was time for an early morning walk.
i snuck away here and there to start and finish the good neighbor.
it kept my attention.
sunday's recessional was o come o come emmanuel, one of my faves of the season.
we won 2 of the 12 prizes we put our raffle tickets towards at the church fundraiser.
i mean ted won 2 out of the 3 he allocated.
luck doesn't even begin to explain it with this kid.
she was sad not to win the twin stuffed giraffes.
it was a blessing because there seriously is no room at the inn on her bed.
sunday dinner was chicken and gravy over mashed potatoes.
let it be known...crock pots are amazing.
it was a comforting end to a soul and spirit soothing weekend.
this week there will be more decorating, celebrating, shopping and wrapping.
walking and reading and singing carols too.
tis' the season.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Saturday, December 5, 2015

December 5, 2015

So it dawned on me this morning that I've neglected this space.  Not showing up here at least a couple times a week is as bad for my constitution as little sleep, too much sugar and not enough exercise.  I have a mind dump journal that I scribble the overflow in when it threatens to take over.  Daily. Ideas I want to explore, quotes I want to quote, words I want to remember and things I want to forget.  Forget as in get out of my my mind.  Here I write about the times I want to remember, and when I don't, I fear I'll forget them.  Lose them forever.  Almost as if they never happened.  It's clear how little I trust my own memory.


Things have been messy around here.  Messy in the best sense of the word.  The house is a work in progress as is my life every single day.  It is both exciting and exhausting.  Each day I see change and that is the end goal, but my relationship with time is melancholic and wistful.  I do not know how to refrain from mourning its passage.  It's something to do with the way I'm wired.


When I wrote December 5, 2015 on the check to pay the Boy Scouts for my Christmas wreath this morning, I felt a mournful tug of disbelief.  Denial.  It's 50 degrees and during our walk this morning it felt more like spring than almost winter.  Teddy's ski trip was cancelled today.  No snow.  It seems like just last year that he started walking on his own two feet, and a week ago he was a rosy cheeked troop member pedaling pine wreaths.  Yesterday, he kindly reminded me that oh so very soon he'll be able to drive himself to school.  In a car!


Lily left the wiggly tooth that met its demise on her nightstand last night.  She didn't balk at the fact that the Tooth Fairy failed to reward her cast off canine.  Is is because she doesn't believe there is a Tooth Fairy?  Or has she learned to expect her to take a couple days?  Yet she wonders when Fred will return and has been looking for the little elf every morning.  I never ever want the magic to expire.  


But everything expires and too soon.  The day, the season, the year.  Childhood, loved ones, dreams.  It's impermanence that makes my heart race and ache.  Nothing lasts forever.  This sentiment ingrained in us from the beginning.  Not as curse, but as gentle reminder to always (or as much as we conceivably can) see the good, be the good, remember the good.