Friday, April 29, 2016

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

My quiet house right now. The cats are catching rays and I'm writing words after a long, draining week.  

Lily is practicing pitching in the yard with her dad who is coach once again.  He's always coached T.'s finally her turn, and I think they're both enjoying it.

Teddy went straight from practice on one course to play 9 on another despite the fact it's in the 40s. He is completely committed to golf right now, and his scores show it. I love that it's something he can enjoy for the rest of his life too.

That he set up a date with my dad last weekend to get a new driver. My dad told me how great that made him feel. We all feel him growing up and away, so those one on ones are extra special.

Every morning these two have breakfast together.

A little inspiration in the kitchen the past seven days. It was long overdue. Not pictured is a batch of banana bread muffins hot out of the oven that were happily consumed by hungry kids and their friends.

No one at Casa Wags was too excited about the salmon, but the risotto sure was tasty.

Tomatillo salsa. They are only available for a short window so I make lots while I can.

White mac & cheese which means mozzarella, goat, white cheddar and a little Parm, all leftover in the cheese drawer.

Garlic and lemon roast chicken.

I just about finished H is for Hawk, and I'm grateful I stuck with it.

These words I so understand from the memoir...

I was in ruins. Some deep part of me was trying to rebuild itself, and its model was right there on my fist. The hawk is everything I wanted to be: solitary, self-possessed, free from grief, and the numb to the hurts of human life.

Gerbera daisies.

Forgiveness for myself and others.

Gentleness towards myself and others.

Luxury. 600 thread count 100% Egyptian cotton sheets. 

When I was really really sad yesterday and Lily just looked at me and asked, "Mom, do you need a hug?" It was exactly what I needed.

The four people who left kind comments on my last post. Only 12% of readers took the time to comment, but I'm going to focus on their positive juju and move on with big loving gratitude for them, and obviously it doesn't matter to me at all because I just took the time
to figure out the percentage and I hate math.

Tonight is pizza and movie night. Probably a little vino tinto too.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Existential Blog Crisis

Peanut's taken it upon himself to act as placeholder. I turn on my computer, go get a cup of coffee and come back to find him in my spot. I like to think he's responsible for my absence here (a little play on cat's got my tongue), but the truth is, he'll make room for me if I just ask. Speaking of truth...I'm in a bit of a quandary.  You see on the one hand I'm noticing that when I come here to write, I've either said it before or can't say it at all. Best not to put it out there on www and to whoever may find their way to my little piece of it. So many stories aren't mine to tell even though nothing would delight me more. Gone are the days when I want to memorialize all the sweet and precocious things my kids say and do here. Gone mostly because my two don't want me waxing poetic about them night and day. I try to stay away from family drama, which is forever abundant, because I need and love these people plus I'm saving it all for my juicy novel. Work drama is so ripe for the picking, but I don't feel like looking for a new job and I'm storing it in the vault for the sitcom I write one day. By the way, it will be better than The Office, which was originally my idea. I'm telling you I could have written a whole season after 6 hours at the office yesterday. Politics and religion are big parts of my life, but I don't care for people other than Father Tim preaching at me, so I do my best to refrain from taking my Blogger pulpit. That leaves me with little material and it's exactly why so many of my posts are about daily life, which is the extraordinary ordinary if only to me. Recipes, books, excursions, celebrations that are reduced into what not why. I'm a why girl. Writing helps me figure things out. The words flow, the feelings come and go, and suddenly I can come out the other side.  The other side of joy or grief or anger or disappointment. Not writing is not good for me and not a healthy option so therein lies the struggle. I need to write, but I'm handcuffed. I feel I cannot write about so many of the things I want and need to write about.

I don't read many blogs anymore. It's less a time thing and more a matter of finding that writers are sharing less and less. Sound familiar? The blogs I was initially drawn to a decade ago when I first entered this forum were raw and honest. I was shocked at the confessional tone these writers seemed comfortable assuming as they poured out their hearts, fears, demons, desires, but I was drawn in because they felt safe and familiar. Some of them are still writing...lots of sponsored or self-promotional posts and once in awhile a surface level empirical crisis, which just makes me suspicious. I'm not a dog...I don't need a bone. Most of them have written books. I'll celebrate anyone who gives birth to their words, but I usually refrain from buying or even reading these publications. Why? Because I don't connect with them anymore. There I said it. They let me down. These women were once open and authentic, but now they are just shilling and yes, most of them are attention junkies. I know I know. The Internet has changed the world, blogging has changed writing and social media has changed us all, but I remember when there was a safe and supportive, honest and open community of writers, and I miss that.

I started this blog shortly after my mother died. It was a natural way for me to work through my grief. If you read here you know I'm still working through my grief, and I imagine that will continue until the day I die. Words heal, but there is always scar tissue. I wrote for myself without any attention to an audience. I wasn't interested in monetizing my blog, going viral or racking up comments and followers...I just wanted to purge. None of that has changed. Along the way, people in my real life discovered this blog, which I decided was no secret and that kind of delighted me. It scared me too, but I'm a writer at heart and the thought of sharing my words was appealing. I know of a few people in my real life that check in here and to you I want to say thank you. It means so much to me that you think enough of me to read what I write. You are giving me a much appreciated gift. I've been hurt by many others who have made comments that it would be weird to read my blog, or that they just couldn't imagine reading my inner thoughts. To them I want to say I don't get it. If any one of them wrote anything, I would be the first to read it. I am deeply interested in their their lives. It really feels like a snub. It hurts.

I don't see myself shutting down My Musings. I love all the memories it holds and I imagine my kids reading it one day. Perhaps, I'll make it private and then I'll truly be able to write without censor, or maybe I'll just start on my novel and my sitcom, but more than likely I'll keep on keeping on because this space has become an integral part of me.

I've never asked this before and I feel a little vulnerable doing so now, but if you read this will you check in and say hi? Just leave me a message in the comments, which I think I've successfully enabled. It can be your good deed for the day: helping a struggling writer in the middle of a real existential crisis. It would mean a great deal to me to know who's stopping by.

Monday, April 25, 2016

On My Mind Monday

"Now that Dad was gone I was starting to see how mortality was bound up in things like that cold, arc-lit sky. How the world was full of signs and wonders that come, and go, and if you are lucky you might see them. Once, twice. Perhaps never again. The albums on my mother’s shelves are full of family photographs. But also other things. A starling with a crooked beak. A day of hoarfrost and smoke. A cherry tree thick with blossom. Thunderclouds, lightning strikes, comets, eclipses: celestial events terrifying in their blind distances but reassuring you, too, that the world is forever, though you are only a blink in its course."

~Helen Macdonald
H is for Hawk

This memoir took its hold on me tonight.  Macdonald's writing is as keen as a hawk's eye and as sharp as each talon. Just this short passage touches on most of the things that both break and fill my heart every day.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

April Inventory

Reading not enough.  I have several stacks all around the house and a few waiting at the library, but in the past month I only made it through The Ramblers and Yes Please.  The Ramblers sort of annoyed me, but then I'm not the biggest fan of chick lit or stories that revolve around rich people problems.  It had potential to move out of that category and beyond the waspy world, but it never did. I was annoyed because it was well, almost gushingly, reviewed by people (readers, writers, bloggers) I usually agree with and respect so it made me question both their sincerity and my propensity to criticize. In other words, if a friend asks me to write a review of her recently published novel, am I going to admit it lacked substance?  And why can I not just realize that not every book I read is going to be riveting? Poehler's book was interesting. It's not all that funny and that's OK. It's witty, at times, but the biggest takeaway for me is that Amy is just an average girl who had the guts and tenacity to pursue her dreams.  The last section of the book was my favorite.  The stand out was My Boys. I laughed and cried through that vignette. Time Travel also resonated strongly with me. I'm still on track to read at least 100 books this year even after this recent drought which I blame on Showtime. See Watching below.

Wondering what to do with this monkey mind of mine.  I'm all over the place these days, which usually results in me getting nowhere.  I have a stack of lists an inch thick and growing by the day.

Watching too much television.  It started with Homeland and then The Affair and then Billions. Yesterday I was searching for my next show when I realized that we have to cancel Showtime. Lily and I went to see to Legally Blond at the high school over the weekend.  It was better than television that's for sure. Mike and I watched The Big Short recently. It was well done, but it made me angry. The amount of greed was gross. How is it that no one was punished except homeowners and taxpayers?

Listening to my quiet house. It's so quiet I just heard Tigger walk down the stairs. It's rare to sit in complete silence, and it's refreshing. 

Eating too much sugar since Easter. It makes me realize how even just small amounts set us up to crave it more regularly. It's in everything too from Greek yogurt to salad dressings so I'm passing on the yogurt and back to making my own dressing again. Truthfully, I've felt uninspired in the kitchen lately.  Cooking feels more like a chore than a passion these days and that's a problem for me so I'm ready to hand off the entree to the grill master.  This week we enjoyed the first brats of the season.

Wanting my new pillows and sheets to arrive today. I don't know that we've ever splurged on a really good set of sheets before.  I recently ordered a pair that caught my eye because they were a refreshing aqua color and then while I was shopping with Lily this weekend, I found a perfect sea glass linen quilt and shams.

Hoping to get summer camps and activities scheduled soon so I can breathe easy knowing my two will be entertained and engaged. 

Thinking that there is no such thing as too much kindness or too much gratitude.

Enjoying SNL especially during this election year. There's certainly an abundance of material although I will say that the skits start out funny, and then fall flat at the end. Also Nyle DiMarco on the dance floor, spring baseball, kitchen dance parties and open windows.

Loving this excerpt from Amy Poehler's My Boys that is anything, but funny:

"When your children arrive, the best you can hope for is that they break open everything about you. Your mind floods with oxygen. Your heart becomes a room with wide open windows. You laugh hard every day. You think about the future and read about global warming. You realize how nice it feels to care about someone more than yourself. And gradually, through this heart-heavy openness and these fresh eyes, you start to care a teeny tiny bit more about what happens to everyone in it."

Monday, April 18, 2016

On My Mind Monday

Time can be your bitch if you just let go of the "next" and the "before."

~ Amy Poehler
Yes Please

Friday, April 15, 2016

Grateful Friday

Today I give thanks for...

Squeezing in my workout this morning before work because Lily and I have plans tonight.

Tickets for the high school musical, Legally Blond. I've never even seen the movie so I'm really looking forward to it.

Teddy worked so hard on homework this week. He was up past midnight a couple nights plugging away. That's, in part, due to faulty time management last weekend, but also amped golf and baseball practices and the culmination of a big paper. I think they'll be a little relief this weekend which is good seeing as how he has a pitching clinic and 2 baseball games.

He shot a 43 and took first in his match this week despite the fact that he was having a hard time driving.

Lily had a pitching clinic this week too. She worked so hard that her arm was sore. Mike said she is looking good on the mound. 

Teddy has a new bed.  He's had no headboard for years and then he was sleeping on a mattress on the floor for the past month so it's time.  We're trying to keep the momentum going in the home improvement department, but that takes time, energy and cash, of course.

Taxes are done.  Thanks Love.

This Amy Poehler advice from Yes Please: Decide what your currency is early. Let go of what you will never have. People who do this are happier and sexier.

Books in cue.  Next up is H is for Hawk followed by May We Be ForgivenMy Name Is Lucy Barton

A relatively quiet and temperate weekend ahead of us.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

two day pass

one of the things i treasure about weekends this time of year is that we have few obligations.
holidays and celebrations are scarce so we make our own.
friday i had my favorite group of girlfriends over for long over-due catch up and and wine as well.
the time always expires too fast and so many stories go unfinished or altogether untold, and yet i always feel at ease.
as the snow accumulated, we gathered moments, laughs, levity.
i believe we all feel the strong chi and are thankful for the uncanny ties that bind.
my mom was with us not surprisingly...she is the most common denominator.
although most of the snow melted by morning, the day was still slow and lazy.
i slept later than i have in ages despite the fact that i first woke at dawn.
it was a perfect day for binge watching (billions) or binge playing (mine craft or ps4).
my brother and sil stopped over for happy hour at the end of day on a whim.
spontaneity is responsible for some of the best of times.
we tailored our talk to avoid politics and to focus on lake houses.
sunday was all about errands and practices and getting ready for the week ahead.
i roasted a chicken because although i prefer white meat, there is something about slow roasting a whole bird that speaks to my soul.
it was quite good served with a side of spring-fresh asparagus.
this time of year strikes me as so full of contradictions...
buds on the trees and tulips in vases, but snow on the ground.
boots one day and flip flops the next.
wanting to stretch and grow into the light of the longer days, but also desiring a little more time to cozy up with books and cats.
sensing the change in the air and also ruing that things cannot remain exactly as they are right now.

Monday, April 11, 2016

On My Mind Monday

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.

~ Albert Einstein

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Guest of Honor

This picture taken Friday night in my kitchen is missing one very important person, but she was there.  The rest of the tribe witnessed it...felt it...knew it.  The loud footsteps heard by a couple friends were not the cats who were fast asleep in the next room.  Just as soon as I confirmed this, Earth Wind and Fire's Do You Remember came on and I got that hair raising, tingling, goosebumpy feeling.  All of Kathy's Gals did. This is my mom's song and the 21st of September her birthday so we picked up our spoons and sang as we passed around the communal glass of wine we poured in her honor moments before.  It truly made an already lovely night warmer and happier, fuller and complete.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016


I purchased tickets for Mollie Morningstar the minute Jess expressed an interest.  I tucked them away and thought little about them other than the fact that it was a tad funny the date was April Fools. And also I hoped Jess wouldn't change her mind or lose her nerve.

As the evening approached, I felt rather ambivalent.  I knew it would be entertaining, but I didn't expect my mom to come through.  I cannot say why.  Perhaps, because it was a larger group or maybe I wanted Jess to hear from Danny more than I needed to hear from Kath.

I haven't felt her near for awhile, yet that night I put on her diamond earrings, the k necklace - the last gift she gave me when she knew she was dying - and the shamrock scarf she wore when she passed.  Armed with these talismen, I dare say I was hopeful.

We stopped for a drink before heading to the theater and as Jess pulled pictures, letters, cards and Parker's collar from her purse, I noticed she was wearing her engagement ring.  She even had a picture of my mom with Teddy and Lily, and that right there sums up why I heart her.

We took our seats in the crowd of about 75 and soon after Mollie took the stage.  She spent the first 40 minutes talking about her gift and what would happen.  I was getting anxious because every minute spent talking about what would happen was one less minute of happening.  She connected with 10 spirits, and I believe my mom was one of them, but I held back and someone else came forward.  I was holding out for one more piece of evidence, but the proof was in my limbs that tingled as I felt energy surge through me.  Mollie warned of  just this type of missed opportunity so I had only myself to blame.

The last visit of the night was a husband and father who committed suicide 3 weeks prior.  His widow and 19 year old son were in the audience.  They were sitting near us.  I noticed the young man fidgeting and in apparent distress as soon as we sat down.  I wondered what their story was.  As it was told, it felt too fresh and raw, yet they left smiling...lighter and brighter.

Jess and I digested the evening over pinots and pizza.  

The next morning I called a friend.  She was one of my mom's closest friends. I don't often talk to her over the weekend, but she had a rough week and I wanted to check in.  She was surprised to hear from me because she was just about to call me.  She wanted to tell me about a dream she had about my mom that was much more than a dream. Kath was just there giving her support, letting her know she's not alone.  And, of course, it wasn't a dream, but a dream visit and we both felt buoyed and tingly.

Later that day I took a wrong turn and I ended up on the hospital campus where my mom was treated. It seemed like a rather cruel joke.  All smug, I zipped through to where I knew there was a shortcut only it's a cul de sac now.  I came to a stop, said a few choice words and actually thought about driving through it and that's when a bluebird flew right in front of me and perched on a branch.  I felt my blood pressure deescalate as a wave of peace washed over me.  My mom always sends the bluebirds.

two day pass

friday was the last day of spring break.
teddy was in the dells with friends having a blast so i knew i wanted to do something fun with lily.
we hemmed and hawed over our options until we finally decided to rank them and compare notes.
#1 on both lists was an a-z photo scavenger hunt that we sorta invented as we went along.

along and around the north shore to many of our favorite places on such a picturesque day.
our first stop was at the lynden sculpture gardens: a for art work.

our last stop was at baskin robbins: i for ice cream.
we obviously didn't go in order.
once home, lily proudly arranged all 26 polaroids in an album.
i smile every time i page through it.
it was a really great day and a welcome reminder that some of the best memories are made close to home on ordinary days.

she was tired after all the fresh air, and ted was beat after 2 days at the water park so they were thankful for a quiet night.
i was looking forward to a date with jess and Mollie Morningstar.
we stopped off at transfer for a cocktail and an order of brushetta salami before arriving for the session.

although neither of us received readings, it was a good and soul stirring night.
on the way home, we stopped to decompress over wine and pizza.
as promised, we woke to snow saturday morning.

mike and the kids met up with his brother and kids at the audubon center.
i'm pretty sure this was the first saturday in forever that ted rose before noon.
i met jess again.
this time for an afternoon of shopping...a pastime about which neither one of us is especially enthusiastic, but she was on a mission.
i'm happy to report that she picked out and purchased beautiful new living room furniture.
mission complete.
i'm pretty sure that was the fastest few thousand she's ever spent.
saturday evening we celebrated family april birthdays and the final four at a chinese buffet and then my in law's.
by sunday the temps were on the rise so we opened windows and shed layers.

we hosted a birthday bbq for my brother at the end of the weekend.
the first burgers and dogs of the season were a delicious treat.
it was obviously quite a full weekend.
i usually crave a little more down time when i'm weekending, but the thing is...
i wouldn't have wanted to miss a single outing or occasion.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

I'm Still Here

After my last post almost two weeks ago, I put down my pencil and put away my camera.  It happens every once in awhile: the urge to let go.  The desire to let the words and the images go without posterity or permanence. The thing is that writing and taking pictures is natural to me.  Clicking away and snapping away are rituals that define my every day.  Capturing a moment, sitting with it and making meaning on some level connects me to the world around me, my family, myself.  When I'm not telling stories, I feel a little off, anxious, unsettled.  It makes sense: this recent propensity to hole up, hunker down. This was a bit of a heavy week. The loads I carried, I'm not exactly ready to put down yet either. Truthfully, there are parcels I'm not sure belong here at all.  Time will tell.  When the urge to share starts to strike though, it usually means that I'm connecting the dots again.  It's a weighty often lengthy process of figuring things out, seeing them for what they are and then deciding how to live with or without them. Let's just say I had a hundred aha moments this week and now I'm exhausted.  That being was a good stretch of days. The evidence is below. I did manage to sneak a few shots.  

1. Teddy on Easter morning.  He dressed for the, polka dots and seersucker.  He is as beautiful inside as he is handsome outside.  Lily attended church with Grandma Judy and then joined us at home with the rest of the family for brunch. While I failed to get a picture, she looked so pretty and springy.

2. We spent a fair amount of time creating this week.  It's so much better than getting sucked into the electronic world, and I love that she gets that even if I always have to provide the prompt.

3. I love to set my table early and then admire it for days.  Peanut and Tigger share my anticipation

4. The peach Bellini was our Easter cocktail.  I blended frozen peach slices with simple sugar, topped it with Prosecco and a sprig of fresh mint.

5. Came upon this hawk on a walk.  He was calling out to a mate and caught my attention. 'Tis the season.

6. I managed some kitchen creativity this week too.  These peppers are filled with Italian sausage, whole wheat orzo, san marzanos, shredded zucchini and pesto.  I baked them with a thick slab of fresh mozzarella on top and they were tasty.

7. Lily spent time with both sets of grandparents over spring break. She went to a horse show with one and to see River Dance with the other.  Lucky girl.

8. Easter brunch salad perfection: spring greens, toasted pecans, ripe pears and good blue cheese topped with a homemade vinaigrette.

9. There is one piece of this coconut cream cake left.  We almost never finish a cake in this house.  It's that good!

10. Lily ready for flight.

11. Ted and Jack also suited up.  

12. Escargot and Pinot Noir with a friend at one of my favorite restaurants in the middle of the day in the middle of the week.  All good.

13. Spent all day with Lily on Friday and we had such a great time making our own fun.  I think it's a day we'll both remember forever.

14. Lily airborne.

15-16 Ted too.  We took a day trip to the suburbs of Chicago for an exhilarating flight or two and lunch.