Monday, December 26, 2016

On My Mind Monday

"People were wonderful company sometimes."

~ Colson Whitehead
The Underground Railroad

These people always. We've spent the last couple days at home just the four of us and it's been such a blessing. We spent quality time together...chatting, playing games, watching movies. We also stole away to do our own things. Today I finally finished this novel. I want to tell you that I couldn't put it down, but I must clarify that is only because I wanted it to be over. Who was Cora? After 300 some pages I still felt disconnected from the main character. The story had such incredible potential, but it failed to deliver. This is another in a long stretch of Oprah picks that leave me wondering why. I'm finally at the point where if Oprah is touting it, I'll think twice about reading it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Winter Solstice

Toward the Solstice, 1977

The thirtieth of November.

Snow is starting to fall.
A peculiar silence is spreading
Over the fields, the maple grove.
It is the thirtieth of May,
Rain pours on ancient bushes, runs
Down the youngest blade of grass.
I am trying to hold in one steady glance
All the parts of my life.
A spring torrent races
On this old slanting roof,
The slanted field below
Thickens with winter’s first whiteness.
Thistles dried to sticks in last year’s wind
Stand nakedly in the green,
Stand sullenly in the slowly whitening,
My brain glows
More violently, more avidly
The quieter, the thicker
The quilt of crystals settles,
The louder, more relentlessly
The torrent beats itself out
On the old boards and shingles.
It is the thirtieth of May,
The thirtieth of November,
A beginning or an end.
We are moving towards the solstice
And there is so much here
I still do not understand.
If I could make sense of how
My life is tangled
With dead weeds, thistles,
Enormous burdocks, burdens
Slowly shifting under
This first fall of snow,
Beaten by this early, racking rain
Calling all new life to declare itself strong
Or die,
If I could know
In what language to address
The spirits that claim a place
Beneath these low and simple ceilings,
Tenants that neither speak nor stir
Yet dwell in mute insistence
Till I can feel utterly ghosted in this house.
If history is a spider-thread
Spun over and over though brushed away
It seems I might some twilight
Or dawn in the hushed country light
Discern its greyness stretching
From molding or doorframe, out
Into the empty dooryard
And following it climb
The path into the pinewoods,
Tracing from tree to tree
In the falling light, in the slowly
Lucidifying day
Its constant, purposive trail,
Till I reach whatever cellar hole
Filling with snowflakes or lichen,
Whatever fallen shack
Or unremembered clearing
I am meant to have found
And there, under the first or last
Star, trusting to instinct
The words would come to mind
I have failed or forgotten to say
Year after year, winter
After summer, the right rune
To ease the hold of the past
Upon the rest of my life
And ease my hold on the past.
If some rite of separation
Is still unaccomplished,
Between myself and the long-gone
Tenants of this house,
Between myself and my childhood,
Between the childhood of my children,
It is I who have neglected
To perform the needed acts,
Set water in corners, light and eucalyptus
In front of mirrors,
Or merely pause and listen
To my own pulse vibrating
Lightly as falling snow,
Relentless as the rainstorm,
And hear what it has been saying.
It seems I am still waiting
For them to make some clear demand
Some articulate sound or gesture,
For release to come from anywhere
But from inside myself.
A decade of cutting away
Dead flesh, cauterizing
Old scars ripped open over and over
And still it is not enough.
A decade of performing
The loving humdrum acts
Of attention to this house
Transplanting lilac suckers,
Washing panes, scrubbing
Wood-smoke from splitting paint,
Sweeping stairs, brushing the thread
Of the spider aside,
And so much yet undone,
A woman’s work, the solstice nearing,
And my hand still suspended
As if above a letter
I long and dread to close.

(Adrienne Rich)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Dear Lily

This has been a rough few months for you and I want to write here not to dwell on the negativity, but to celebrate your positive attitude and beautiful spirit in spite of the hard times. We've had many frank discussions, tearful talks and heart to hearts. They break my mama heart, yet I'm thankful you're confiding in me. While I would love nothing more than to spare you the pain that comes from mean girls and bullying (and let's be frank that's exactly what this is), I cannot. I can only help you navigate and try to make sense of (even when it is all nonsense) the often unfriendly middle school waters, lift you up as you lift others, and be that safe place for you to fall when you need to. I will keep telling you that you are learning valuable lessons about friendship and loyalty and kindness and courage. You are. I will keep reminding you that you are a caring friend and that you deserve to be treated with the same respect and goodness you bestow on others. You do. I will keep encouraging you to forge bonds with like-minded, like-hearted young ladies. You have. Unfortunately I cannot tell you why this is happening. It doesn't make much sense to me either and I'm 47. I cannot explain why someone you really cared for and confided in for years suddenly decided seemingly overnight that you should be excluded, rebuked, and mistreated. I have my suspicions, but they are the things that cannot make sense to your twelve year old self...the girl who simply wants to have fun, be included and be nice. You keep wondering what you did or did not do. I keep telling you that this isn't at all about you. And it isn't. 

What I haven't told you because how could I is that friends, even best friends, will hurt you, disregard and disappoint you all your life. People make mistakes. People miscommunicate and disagree even when they are communicating. People change and not always for the better. Friendships change too, and that can be hard. I've walked away from relationships for all of these reasons. There have been a time or two when that may have been a rash mistake, but I've never regretted ending a relationship with a toxic person no matter our history or how much fun we have together. Toxic people manipulate, fail to own their part or apologize, continually force you to prove yourself to them, set the terms of the relationship, need you (use you) when they are down and then drop you again when things look up, disregard your feelings, and they tell you how to feel and act. All of these characteristics can be attributed to this friend in the last 6 months like clockwork. Textbook. Like I said people change, and yet I'm not telling you to do anything, anything but protect yourself . 

Here's the thing...I don't want you to change. I don't want your soft heart or your sweetness to harden or sour. I still want you to be forgiving and non-judgmental. How many times have you pondered with worry what must be going on in this friend's life to cause her to treat you so hurtfully? You lit a candle for her in church this week. All along I've been praying for you. You pray for her. You are pure benevolence and that is such a gift in this dog eat dog, queen bee, every girl for herself world. Please don't take my gushing words to mean that I think you are perfect or without fault. Just take them to mean that I believe you have far fewer than most, myself included.  

So please keep being true to yourself. You know your worth and what is right. And please remember that you teach people how to treat you. Do not stand for unkindness or intimidation. Stay strong. Keep laughing and smiling and surround yourself with people who accept and love you for who you are everyday, who lift you up not bring you down, who deserve your gift of true and constant friendship. And keep praying for the rest of them!

You, Lily are one of the best people I know and I'm beyond proud of your heart and soul.

I love you Bit! To the moon and back!



this weekend came with snow and cold
so we mostly stayed in where it was warm and cozy.
it was exactly what i needed and everyone else seemed happy 
so maybe it was what they needed too.
together we baked and cooked,  played games and watched football.
sunday we braved the cold to make it for the last week of advent.
at the end of mass, we hummed silent night, which is a seasonal highlight for me.
then we lit lots of candles for loved ones before stopping out for breakfast.
going for breakfast is a highlight for the kids.
when we returned home, it started all over again... cookies...sunday sauce.
this weekend was the best of for the holiday season as far as i'm concerned.
i'm finding the most joy in our ordinary moments together and in celebrating our family traditions.
that makes me feel blessed beyond measure and grateful and toasty.

Monday, December 19, 2016

On My Mind Monday

The only way to know how long you are lost in the darkness is to be saved from it.

The Underground Railroad
Colson Whitehead

The past has a clarity I can no longer see in the present.

The Nightingale
Kristin Hannah

Half way through both these books and still fiercely determined to finish them before year-end. They're mostly well-told and somewhat compelling works. I'm just tired and tuned out. 'Tis the season of too many feels, too much sugar and alcohol, and not enough sleep, sanctity or self-care. It's the reason for resolutions. I'm in the dark folks...the here and now a bit of a blur. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

Reflection. It's been a tough week, but also a good one. Yada yada...take the good with the bad and make lemonade out of lemons. True, but not always easy. 

Kindred spirits. Last Friday after a big downer of a day, I invited my friend who'd had the same kind of day for drinks. We enjoyed a couple glasses, shared a few laughs and everything shifted right there in front of that sparkly tree. We both felt it.

Snowstorms both last weekend and this weekend. There are 7-10 inches in our overnight forecast and that just makes me giddy because it's permission to stay inside both literally and figuratively.

Yet last weekend we braved the snow one night and the cold the next. We accepted spontaneous invitations. Saturday to see our old friends new house, and then football Sunday at my brother and sil's in their new kitchen.

This girl's new obsession with slime. Yes, she's growing up, but it's these kinds of things that remind me of the little girl she once was.

A shopping day with my guy mid-week. We're almost done. We treated ourselves to lunch as a reward for our success. Shopping (at least this kind of frenetic consumerism) is not my favorite and he likes it even less.

Peanut's eye lashes and Tigger's whiskers. 

Keeping warm however we can.

This word and perfect sentiment...
Attending Miss Bit's Winter Sing. Truth be told...I wasn't looking forward to it. As the concert started, I had a heck of a headache. The orchestra played one number and then two and I felt the tension in my temples ease and then the unproductive thoughts on loop in my head float away. It was amazing. The thoughts and then the pain would seep back in and then I would let them go again. The unhealthy physical manifestation of my mental stress was obvious. By the time the choir came on, I was in a much better, lighter space. They sang only three songs. First was The Beetle's Let It Be, then Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah and the last number was Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas. I have a new appreciation for the last number (which I've never been a big fan of) because they all donned Santa hats and had such fun with the song. Truthfully, I felt that I needed to hear each of these songs...they held messages I needed to embrace and take with me into the rest of Advent.

Family. My in-laws joined us for the performance. Teddy even attended. We came home for dessert which was my extra decadent chocolate mousse and a little homemade Irish cream. I think we all felt the hygge.

Another angel for my tree. This one from a friend whose MIL recently passed away. She was quite a woman and I feel truly blessed to have this little memory of her...this talisman for my tree. She's in good company too as I have angel's from my mom, my grandma, my great grandma, Mike's grandma and my cousin Carol.

A full and brilliant moon this week.

The winter solstice is on the horizon and yes there is still so much I don't understand. 

What I do know is that it was a great night. Mike brought home pizzas and we played Clue. I even won once and I suck at Clue.

Now I'm going to curl up in front of the tree and watch the snow fall.

More hygge.


Friday, December 9, 2016

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

It was a week of ups and downs. I guess they all are, but this stretch of days had me feeling life's many undulations full on. Then I was able to go out for a little spontaneous cheer with my friend tonight. We both needed it and our moods were much improved after a couple glasses, a few laughs and many lights and sparkles.

The last time I was in the lobby at the Pfister at Christmas it was with my Cousin Carol. Being there again brought back warm memories, and when I posted this picture on Instagram, her daughter thought of that weekend too.

When I got home, Lily and I watched This Is Us and I cried. I cried because of what happened, because I really want to be a Pearson and because I can't find out what happens until January 10th. Then after that Lily put on ALDC and I laughed and felt like the best mother ever! Peanut slept soundly and kept me toasty warm through all hysterics.

Nothing bad happens on Christmas Eve.

I was in numerous buildings downtown today and they're all decked out for Christmas. Wisconsin Avenue is glowing too.

Lily's invited to bake cookies with my aunt tomorrow. She loves to be busy in the kitchen and I think it'll be nice for them to spend some girl time together. I'm not sure how far down our annual list I'm going to get this year. I made the first (and only) cookie of Christmas this week so that's a start.

5-8" of snow in the forecast tomorrow.

Christmas lights. It's pure hygge when the house is illuminated by only white twinkling lights.

Sarah McLachlan's Wintersong. It's one of my favorites. I love her interpretation of old classics and her voice is soulful.

Zaffiros pepperoncini pizza.

This week Lily agreed to pull the pumpkin off the top of someone's trash so we could put it in the yard for the critters. On Wednesday I watched a squirrel spend the better part of the day breaking into a pumpkin and then devouring the seeds. I swear he fattened up before my eyes.'s really that simple this week. Gratitude 101.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016


the weekend was mostly spent at or close to home.
except for lily who spent afternoon into night saturday in chicago celebrating a friend's birthday.
she had a blast and now wants to live there when she grows up and furnish her apartment with a view of michigan avenue with all things ikea.
she'd also like the christmas lights that set the avenue ablaze to stay lit year round.
before she was picked up by a chauffeur (la ti da), we headed out as a family of four to get our tree.
it was an easy pick and we celebrated our success over brunch out.
that evening we (minus lily) headed to our neighbor's for a badger party.
it was fun despite the disappointing loss.
sunday i woke to snow...the sweetest flurries.
since we had the week off from sunday school, i decided to let the rest of the family sleep in and enjoy a lazy morning.
i watched a movie before they even stirred.
then we watched another before breakfast.
breakfast was brioche french toast and kielbasa and served for lunch.
we never left the house or got out of our pjs/comfies.
the packer game was on in one room and christmas carols in another.
i made homemade stock for ted's choice of sunday dinner: chicken noodle soup, and i made sauce for lily's choice the next night: spaghetti.
we decorated the tree all together and then sat down for dinner as a family.
we really needed ted to trim the top of the tree too.
it was just my perfect idea of a perfect day.

here is the evidence...

chicago dreaming

ted sizes up this 8 foot fir.

saturday morning football talk.



no wine was consumed by these was the loss that did them in.

let it snow.

they barely moved from this nest all day long sunday.

lily and i trimmed her tree.

every ornament has a story. every year we tell them.

the low hanging decorations are fair kitty game.

we have so many treasures that sadly we ran out of room on the tree.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

On Time, The Thief

This has been a rough week for me. I can't exactly put my finger on the cause of the blues I'm feeling as the list of potential causes is long and crowded. There is sad truth to the adage misery loves company

Yesterday it struck me that just a week ago my house was filled with family and my weekend booked with plans. It was a great stretch of days and nights, but I'm a girl who also likes my solitude so a relaxed weekend never gets me down. What hit me was the fact that it seemed like so long ago. Much longer than 7 days. It's that old nag time again passing like the summer breeze barely noticeable until it's gone.

How is it that we're here in the month of December? We're no longer reminded to be grateful, but rather gluttonous. We should eat, drink and be merry. And shop. Every day has a moniker now. Black Friday is joined by Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday and yada yada.

Lily reminded me about Advent calendars the other day. Specifically, where were they? At the store, I confessed. As I recall, they weren't that into counting down to Christmas with crappy chocolates last year so I walked right by them the other day at Winkies. Then she brought up the Advent tree. The one with a little box for each day that I used to fill with treats or tickets for treats. Oh Mom can we please do that one? I love that one! Take one guess what was I was doing the night of December first? 

I skipped that tradition last year. Not sure why. I'd saved some of the tickets from previous years and as I looked through them trying to salvage what I could to make my life easier, I was struck by how they'd outgrown so many of them. Cue the Kleenex. One of their favorites used to be Redeem to stay up an extra 30 minutes. Seriously, I'm in bed before they are most nights these days. They tuck me in. Family Movie Night was another hit. It's near impossible to get them to agree on a movie these days. She wants Prancer and her wants The Purge. Read Christmas books together before bedtime. Highly unlikely. 

Anyway...I got busy making new tickets because I'm a tradition keeper just like my Lil Bit. And, of course, I got into it. She came home from school yesterday bursting to open the box. I told her she had to wait for Teddy who I know is not at all into this anymore unless it involves food or cash, but I'm not letting him off that easy. It's what we do. He and I had the Santa talk the other day, but that's another happysad post. When Lily finally read the day's message, it was about doing for others...kind acts to spread Christmas spirit...things we can do for those in need, and I think she was a little disappointed that it didn't involve sugar or Starbucks. Unfortunately for her, there are many more of the giving nature in the next 21 days. Still we brainstormed a nice list and we're starting a new tradition. She needn't worry though because there will be peppermint mochas, pizza night and spa day too.

I let her open today's box before bed last night. It was a ticket for breakfast at the diner before picking out our tree. I knew she'd like that lots, yet she's still sleeping and he's not home from last night's sleepover. And it's looking like it may have to be lunch. That's OK though because she's going to want chicken tenders anyway.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

Working out tonight even though I really wanted to stay in bed under my covers with my cats and my book. I'm back to The Nightingale and still missing Commonwealth.

The first tree of Christmas. It's always my dining room tree. I fill it with my mom's collection of glass ornaments. The process is cathartic and the tree is beautiful even if it does look a tad crooked this year.

That Jessica has found some Christmas spirit this season. It makes me happy to see her happy. And it will make Lily happy to be invited over. Hint hint.

Watching This Is Us with my kids. It's our favorite. Yes, even Teddy's. It's such a quality show and every character is my favorite.

Walking. Walking while listening to The Moth. I'm seriously addicted to these podcasts. This week my favorite was Extraordinary Proof  told by David Walsh. Apparently, storytelling is not a lost art.

I noticed that someone scattered pumpkins throughout the woods for the critters. I had just thrown mine in the yard waste bin although I thought briefly about setting them out. Too messy I decided. When I got home, I pulled them out and left them for the animals. Sometimes acts of kindness are so simple.

Shopping with Lily this week for a new winter coat and for a friend's birthday present. This girl knows what she likes and wants. She tried on like 5 jackets and was decided. She put together a thoughtful collection of gifts for her friend. She has a generous spirit and loves giving almost as much as receiving.

Tomorrow she'll be spending the day in Chicago for the birthday party. They're taking a chauffeured car for the trip. That's a pretty awesome 13th birthday party if you ask me.

Monday, November 28, 2016


the weekend was full.
today i'm empty.
every year at this time as i'm expected to make the sudden shift from gratitude to joy,
i cannot help but feel a little robbed.
i'm a slow moving lingerer...a loller. 
i need to take my time and sit with the sadness.
likewise, i prefer to pause so as to savor the goodness.
this flip of a switch mentality is completely foreign to me. 
yet now that i'm here looking back at the times we shared over the past few days a bit of a blur...
a whirlwind,
i feel a little silly for being even the slightest bit blue.
it was a weekend long on fun.

on thanksgiving eve i watched the peanuts alone.
and i thought about how i used to watch it with my brother many moons ago, and then with my kids back before years were minutes.
yet i resisted the urge to wallow in pools of pity because growing up and out of charlie and the gang is normal.
so what's wrong with me?
no...don't answer that.
never mind.

on thanksgiving morning, i was the first to rise.
 i went right back to the television.
this time for the parade.
my mom always had it on in the background while she attended to finishing touches for the big feast ahead.
she loved it.
now i love it too.
i feel like it's my time with her.
it's our thing.
and i take what i can get.
i was excited to see that cats is back.
it was my first broadway show on broadway.
my dad took me.

when you're a cat, thanksgiving is just another day.
when you're missing loved ones and it's damp, cold and grey, sometimes holidays feel more like solemnities than celebrations.
that is until the rest of the house comes to life,
including your cousin who hails from the very streets you're watching on t.v.
 you put a quiche in the oven.
slowly the mood shifts. 
the house feels smells like comfort.
gradually the focus shifts from who is absent to who is present.

most of us bundled up for a brisk walk through the parkway.
always there is some activity before the days bachanalia.
it is as much a tradition as the parade, and driving over the river and through the woods, and turkey two ways.
it's a good tradition.
they all are.

another tradition is gathering on the deck for a group picture.
we can never see bodi and someone always has their eyes closed, but the photo is a treasured time capsule.
it's evidence: we came, we loved, we have much for to be grateful.

ted's latest obsessions are chess and vests.
i love anyone with passion.
he wore that fleece all weekend long (today too), and he played many matches with his dad and his uncle.
not just chess, but football and poker too.
i can remember when he was just a little shaver and he used to call it playing chest.
tell me that's not cute.
tell me he's not handsome.
tell me to order him another vest for christmas.

we walked out into the woods to spread some of cousin carol's ashes.
it was sabrina's idea and a good one.
my dad and step-mom were touched that she thought a good resting place for her mom would be in  their woods.
i believe it will be.

lily was chomping at the bit to help grandpa in the kitchen.
he loves that about her and he welcomes her despite the fact that he's rather territorial about his kitchen.
i didn't get any pictures of the feast, but trust me when i say that it was delish.

friday evening was girl's night out.
we had a date at a painting bar and we all loved being artistes for the night.
 lily felt under the weather and had to leave us early, but she really didn't want to.

we rendered our interpretations of an evening walk.
and although we all said we'd do it again, not one of us wanted to hang our canvases in our homes.

after painting, we enjoyed a lovely dinner of small plates across the street...
the stars of which were an arugula dip and lobster stuffed piquillo peppers.
mussels too, and the company, of course.
we drove back to meet the boys and a sleeping lil along the lake.
a number of houses were already decorated for christmas.
it made me feel cozy and happy.

saturday was another girl's day.
on the itinerary was a ladies lunch followed by a little theater.
we enjoyed our fare and the funky decor at the old pabst brewery before heading to see elf.
the musical was a welcome dose of upbeat holiday cheer.
i think i enjoyed it most.
my mantra for the season is definitely sparklejollytwinklejingly.

we came home for an impromptu, yet tasty soup party featuring mike's cheesy chicken fajita, my sil's winter minestone, my dad's squash chowder and my lasagna soup.
it was a strong, stick to your ribs showing.

after dinner, we played a quick game of wits and wagers with real wagers and some wits.
sabrina and i stayed up chatting into the wee hours for the third night in a row after everyone left.

so late that we didn't make it to early church.
we made it to 11:30 mass though, which was healing and touching.
we sang my favorite o come, o come emmanuel even though it wasn't listed in the missal for this day. 
i took it as a small sign.
we had just enough time to make a quick pit stop at gloriosos for lunch.
we had to go there in honor of carol.
i ordered the muffaletta pictured above in honor of her mom.
carol would always get this every.single.time.
now i'll always get it.
she would also eat every.single.bite.
i ate enough of it that i didn't have to eat for the rest of the day.

lily and i drove sabrina to the airport.
we got teary eyed as soon as we pulled away.
outside the terminal it was crowded with so many people parting ways...saying goodbye.
i knew we stood zero chance being the marshmallows that we are.
we put in elf as soon as we got home.
it was really good to laugh for 97 minutes straight.
it was also good to go to bed early and sleep for 8 hours.

we spent more time laughing than crying this weekend.
we looked at old photos and told almost forgotten stories and connected.
we ate good food, painted mediocre paintings, and told a few bad jokes.
we made plans: summer gathering at windmill beach.
new york sometime soon tbd for grandpa and the girls to see cats.
we are looking forward, but not forgetting from whence we came.
that's the challenge...the beauty...the precarious nature of it all.