Thursday, December 29, 2011


Prologue: Mrs. C leaned over to me at the movies this afternoon (What? It's vacation and we saw a PG movie. With our kids.) and called it. She said "Seven is on it's way after this one, isn't it.".

Apparently so.

What do Matt Damon, red kites, and the Easter Bunny have in common? They all made me cry today, for different reasons.

I already admitted that I cry whenever I see someone else cry, whether they are faking it or not, and in the movie we saw today, Matt Damon did. So I did.

The red kites were symbolic of someone he'd loved and lost, which made me think of crying, which then made me cry again.

And the Easter Bunny, well, I'm not going to spoil the movie for you the way Matt spoiled the April fantasy for my kids (I nearly wept at the thought that the jig is up). I'll just say that at bedtime tonight, when the room is quiet and the candy-coated, egg-shaped wheels start turning in their little heads, I'm going to have some explaining to do. And by explaining, I mean lying. It's fine, I've lied to them at least once a day over the last month about the big guy in the red suit, his wife, and their tiny employees, who laugh and sing as they make gifts for little children all over the world. Just adding to the charade at this point.

To personalize: What do cold spaghetti, cooked carrots, and getting my ears pierced have in common? They all make me cry, depending on the day. (Disclaimer: I am opening a distinctly complicated can of worms here. You should know I'm only letting one or two worms out, yet reading it might still feel like trying to eat mochi with mittens on. My apologies.)

I don't remember as much about my sister as my oldest brother might, because I am 12 years younger, and by the time I was five and making the memories I can recall today, she was already practically an adult. I remember her in frames. I can picture her eating cold spaghetti out of the refrigerator in the home we were raised in. I remember her making me cooked carrots mashed up with tons of butter and salt so I would eat my veggies with dinner. And when I was eight years old, she looked at me and said "Want to go to the mall and get your ears pierced?". My answer was yes, and we did just that, even though we both knew if our mother had been there her answer would have been a resounding NO.

I have other snapshots of her in my head, as well as a few short movies. Some of them happy, some not so much.

I also have her daughter. Her stunning, compassionate, free spirit of a daughter. She is so different from my sister and yet, so much like her in look and feel that it literally takes my breath away when I see her. Sometimes I feel transported to another place. A place that makes me ache for more and less at the same time. 

But I'm starting to think that when my sister went, she left us with the best part of her. My niece is my sister's silver lining, a heavenly glimpse of all that could have been, given to us to keep, and wrapped up in a new, healthy, blue-eyed bow. 

And today in the darkness of the theatre, watching the scene where the red kites fly against the blue sky, I thought of my sister. I'm pretty sure she was instrumental in perpetuating the Easter Bunny myth for me, along with my parents. And I definitely remember her explaining to me the merits of covering a tuna noodle casserole with potato chips.

It may not be the most glamorous keepsake from our time together, but it's what I've got. And it goes great with cooked carrots, cold spaghetti, and new earrings, so I'll take it.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


I ate at a restaurant called Cafe Gratitude a few weeks ago. As I walked out, I saw a painting above a doorway that read: "Abundance can be had simply by consciously receiving what has already been given.".

If that's true, I've consciously received so much food and alcoholic beverage over the last several weeks that I am now experiencing a personal, physical abundance. Most evident in the southern regions of my body, but really, my whole self is like gravy, thickening up nicely with just a few lumps.

I sit on the couch and things come to mind as follows: Stuffed sausage. A puffer fish. The Michelin Man.

And yet, rather than start an internal cleanse today, I cleaned the house. Gone are the dry, prickly fire hazards that once were fragrant boughs of pine on the mantel. Off with the stale gingerbread abodes covered in frosting and every kind of candy ever made. Goodbye dog hair dust bunnies (until the puppy comes back in from the yard), and so long bits of tape, donut and bread crumb.

As I sit at a now more-clean-than-sticky kitchen table, I realize it's probably time for some sort of mental cleanse as well. Sometimes I feel like there is so much information in my head that if I use a Q-tip in the right way, I could dislodge some of it and let it tumble right out of my ear. Let's be serious, most of it is useless, and what I do need, often buries itself under Journey or Adam Ant* lyrics.

So in order for me to get to the important things, like remembering to find a new babysitter next month (i.e., in three days or so), or getting a new calendar and writing everyone's birthdays and anniversaries on it before July hits, it's time to purge some gunk.

Now, if you are reading this with pencil in hand, waiting for my pearls of wisdom on how to organize and prioritize your brain and all the information in it, go ahead and break the lead. If I had those pearls, I wouldn't have started this cathartic blog. I'd be too busy digitizing my mental files and writing thank you notes to friends who haven't even bought the gifts they are going to give me in 2012.

If any of you dear readers have a brain more filo faxed than mine, please stop hoarding your mad skills and start sharing your special tricks with me and my good friends, Carbohydrate and Sugar.

*To the younger readers who have no idea who or what Adam Ant is, A) you're cute as a button, and B) this is precisely what Google is for. Look it up. I'll share something you won't find on Google - a visual of me in junior high, throwing my AAA bra at Mr. Ant while he performed valiantly for us at Magic Mountain. It hit him on his left shoulder. Yes, I was that girl. Also, yes, I can remember this, but the passcode to my iPhone eludes me.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Show of hands: who likes roller coasters? And who volunteers to stand in line for churros when everyone runs towards the Death Drop?

Now, I love anticipation. It's why Thursday is my favorite day of the week and Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. They are the kick off to more good stuff to come (like the weekend and the holiday season). It's also why I love pregnancy, but that's another blog entry (or two) entirely.

I'm the one in line for churros. I don't mind the coaster's click, click, click as the car slowly chugs it's way to the peak of the hill, nor do I mind the hesitation at the top where the view is just lovely. It's the inevitable drop that comes afterwards that takes my breath away. And not in a smiley, exhilarating way. More in a I-can't-exhale-by-screaming-or-bear-down-anymore-without-either-A) passing-out-or-B) giving-birth-to-my-own-stomach way.

Something else that makes me feel like I'm ripping in half lately? The internal, inherent pull from daughter to mother and from mother to daughters. I know my Mom needs me. And because she needs me, but would never say she needs me, I need to be with her, even if it's just to hold her hand while she sleeps. At the same time, she isn't down the road, she's in another state (mental, physical, and in this scenario, geographical). And who is in my state, in my city, in my house? My daughters. Who need their mother perhaps more than mine needs me.

And I need to be with them, because even as their childhood angst makes my head spin, just the sight of them makes my heart beat stronger. That same heart has strings that are half held by my girl's hands and half flailing across state lines to my Mom's bedside. They are tied in knots at both ends that I can't - nor would I want to - undo. And yet, because of that, I myself am coming undone. 

This is a tricky scenario that calls for some meditation, some relaxation, and quite a bit of Chardonnay.

A churro wouldn't hurt either.

Monday, December 19, 2011


A dear friend asked me recently how I find time to blog at all, let alone at Christmastime. I put it to her like this: It helps relieve some pressure. Pretend my head is a giant, overblown balloon that's about to pop. Then picture me pulling at my neck a bit. That screaming sound you hear as the air squeals out is my blog.

And here it is.

Confession: my kids make me cry.

Sometimes it's when they are awake and exhibiting behavior I not only don't understand, but can't control. Sometimes it's when they are asleep, and I sneak in quietly to put my nose next to their sweet little mouths to inhale as they breathe out. (Yes, the same mouths they were sassing me with just hours before. Being a mom is reeeally complicated.)

And sometimes, they make me cry when they're saying sweet things to each other and don't know I'm listening. This is when their true selves emerge, unencumbered by all the mother/daughter emotion that tends to seep into their tone of voice when they talk to me lately.

Some of you know a brief version of the story I'm about to tell already, but I never said this blog was going to be original or amazing, so pretend you're in college and just skim the rest.

The other night, the girls were tumbling out of the car and happily talking to each other when I overheard my oldest daughter, the one who is lately exasperated/annoyed/short-tempered/emotional with me say, "I have hope! I believe!". I don't even know what they were talking about, but her words were wings that attached themselves to my heart and flew up to heaven and back.

I've smiled every time I've thought of it ever since, and at the urging of my best friend (the one who lives so far away that her kids think that "Auntie Amy" is a sound that comes out of the phone), I've decided to take this phrase on as my mantra for 2012. 

I'm not making a resolution to lose weight, or exercise more, or go to church, or stop gossiping. All great ideas that will likely flit and float in and out of my life next year, but "I have hope! I believe!" will be the constant. 

That and dirty laundry.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


Dr. Seuss has it down.

I watched The Grinch tonight (not the vintage version, the new one with Jim Carrey and a frenetic Molly Shannon), and I realized the idea of "keeping up with the Joneses" is a universal theme. Poor Mrs. Lou Who lived next door to a fabulous (lonely, secretly-in-love-with-the-Grinch) woman who had a shiny machine that shot out Christmas lights onto her home in perfect order. In an effort to keep up, Mrs. Lou Who tried to string up everything from chandeliers to stolen street lights on her roof.

I'm always in admiration of my friends' beautiful homes. The perfectly chosen furniture, color schemes, choices of art, scent of candles, lack of dog hair on get the picture. There's nothing out of place, not a backpack or stray shoe in sight, and everything in their world seems just right. Sometimes I end up going back home to our little 1930s cottage thinking, huh. Yep, there's the friendship bracelet maker with the Diary of a Wimpy Kid book balanced on it, which lies under the unpainted wooden wreath, next to the frosted gingerbread house, close to the heating vent, which valiantly tries to push warm air out, only to be trumped by the cold air sneaking in due to the lack of sealant on the doors and windows.

Granted, if I had friends coming over, that whole pile (save for the gingerbread house, because how charming is that this time of year?!) would be shoved into whichever closet would hold it behind a closed door. And those friends might leave my house thinking, man, that girl has it all. Clean house, nice kids, beautiful husband.

So I get that sometimes it's about what we put out there. Sometimes our story is frumptastic because that's all we can muster, and sometimes, to quote another Dr. Seuss movie, it's a perfectly painted picture: "In my world, everyone's a pony and they all eat rainbows and poop butterflies!" (Horton Hears A Who - seriously, one of the funniest scenes ever.)

But other times, comparisons can be restorative. Not as a matter of jockeying for position, more a matter of jonesing for some kind of peace and perspective.

Yesterday, I visited a nursing home in my town. From the moment I walked in - from a side door, where nobody questioned who I was or what I was doing there - I felt sad. (Disclaimer: I cry over movies, babies, old people, commercials, and almost anytime I see someone else crying, whether they're faking it or not.) The bedrooms were small, and shared, and the common room was packed with the sweet old folks who lived there. Not in a festive, comfortable way, more in the realm of, here, let me move this sleeping fellow in his chair over so the ornery lady who doesn't understand what's happening can scoot by with her walker.

All at once yesterday, in that nursing home, I felt thankful for my parent's situation. Until then, I hated the idea of my Mom rehabbing her hip in a nursing home, with my Dad alone at home. Now, I'm so much more grateful for the quality of care she is receiving, and the fact that they both have friends who visit to keep them company and bring them what they might need. I am happy she has her own room, with a big window, and kind staff to help her do the things she isn't able to do by herself right now. It's hard for me to see her relinquish her pride and privacy. It's difficult to swallow the fact that she and my Dad will eat Christmas dinner there, and then have to tuck into bed separately.

For most people, including my folks, it's the small rituals we rely on that fill our days and nights with normalcy. In the case of my parents, it's the coffee tin they've had since I was a kid that my Dad pulls out every night so he can set the coffee maker to brew automatically before they wake. The little water dish he puts out on my Mom's bedside table, so their cat can hydrate at will (I'm not saying she isn't spoiled...and I realize this may be an admission of how spoiled I myself was as a kid). The fact that I saw when I visited them last week that my Dad - even though my Mom isn't staying at home - habitually made their bed with my Mom's side turned down, the way he does when she's home, so it's easier for her to climb in for a nap or a good night's sleep.

You may guess where I'm going with this. Yes, yesterday I saw another silver lining. It made my eyes water then, and now. And it made me realize that nobody eats rainbows or poops butterflies. Everyone has a junk drawer that gift cards and screwdrivers and brownie vest patches get lost in. And we all know that as bad as we think we have it, on some level, it's okay for now.

Seven days until Christmas. Not a lick of shopping done on my end.

You're welcome. :)

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Today I was talking with a friend - and before you imagine us sitting near a fire in a tidy home with a hot tea Chardonnay in hand and awesome leather boots on our pedicured feet, take note that I was on the street, getting tangled up and manhandled by the 95-pound puppy when said friend happened to drive by.

My delayed point is that we were chatting about how busy our week seemed to be and I said, with full conviction, "I mean, it's already WEDNESDAY!". She gave me a blank look with a half smile and said, uh, it's Thursday. I looked down for several seconds as if the real answer to why I'm crazy was written on the side of her car.

This happens to me a lot. Not just the day of the week thing, but other things too. I consistently feel like I'm on a raft, swirling around inside my own head, with all my jobs and tasks and things I'm forgetting to do rushing at me trying to capsize my day.

Even when I try to compartmentalize things, which I'm pretty good at, the compartments tend to open up and spill over and everything slips into each other's way.

For example, I have a day job, and I work from home a lot. But I'm still a Mom, with a husband who travels so much in the month of December that I pretend he's not coming home even when he's supposed to. Which means that when I get home from dropping the girls at school, I have a puppy who wants to play (read: eat poop outside, and don't act shocked, I've probably heard your kids talk in my back seat about how your dog does it too). Laundry that isn't going to wash itself. Errands to run. Dear friends I'd love to catch up with. Breakfast dishes to do, lunch to consider and a dinner plan to make. 

So as the minutes turn into hours, I try to slip other things into quiet work moments. Take a break in the action to check personal email, or look up that recipe I was meaning to try. Text a friend or my husband. Add to my "to-do" list. Some people might call this multi-tasking, and on some level I agree. But when it happens more often than it should, you end up being the equivalent of a quarter of the way through 7 books at once, and mixing all the characters and story lines up.

I'm working from home today, in full view of The Jesus House. This is a little barn with a loft that my parents used to pull out every Christmas for my brother and I to fight over play with. Granted, in my childhood home, Christmas=gifts and Easter=chocolate, so The Jesus House was a treasure, but we didn't fully understand the meaning behind it. Now my daughters love to play with it too. In fact, a couple of years ago, as they set it up, I learned that Ariel, The Little Mermaid, was present at the birth of Christ. I told you they are smarter than I am.

Moving on.

Each character was always wrapped in tissue and my brother and I would take turns choosing; whichever ones we got, we got to set up. We tried to feel around for the baby, or his bed, because it was cooler to set up baby Jesus than it was yet another sheep. And we always tried to get "Gloria" - the angel holding the banner that says "Gloria" on it, who hangs on the tiny nail at the roof's peak. What? It says her name RIGHT THERE.

My second delayed point is this: look at sweet Mary. If any of us find stress in our day, let's ponder hers for a minute. The woman gave birth in someone else's barn, after walking around for hours on end begging for help. I called for the epidural guy for a while from the comfort of a clean hospital bed and thought I had it rough until he showed up and turned dark into light.

Back to Mary. There she kneels, by the baby's little bed of hay, hands gracefully crossed at her chest, head tilted to the side, peace written across her face. I'm pretty sure she had more to deal with back then than I do today, and yet, I can't remember what day of the week it actually is.

I don't know the trick you use to keep it together, even when it's all obviously slipping through your fingers. The best I can do some days is stop. Take a deep breath. And while I feel the rise and fall of my ribcage, and my shoulders releasing my ears and settling down my back again where they belong, I remember that this breath is a gift. And my chaos is a gift, as is this day, and these thoughts, and my able body, and the friends I don't have time to talk to, and the husband who is gone, and the daughters who fight with me every morning about the same things. 

And there it is. A tiny sliver of silver lining. I told you it was in there. And it was hiding under an Ugg boot. Not anymore, however, because the puppy has now eaten it in it's entirety. 

It's going to be a great night.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


It's taken me until now to reconcile what "trembling ovaries" means to me, because it started as one thing but has evolved into something else.

Let me try to explain.

I am the daughter of a mother who two Thursdays ago, turned around too quickly and ended up falling down in the kitchen and fracturing her hip.

I am the daughter of a father who has loved his wife for 51 years and counting, through very thick and some thin, and who is the best man I have ever known, hands down.

I am the mother of two daughters who at age seven and nine are already smarter than I am in lots of ways, and who already go through social and academic situations that I don't have any idea how to handle properly.

I am the sister of three siblings - one is in my life, one is estranged, one has passed away.

I am the wife of a man, and the fabric of our relationship continues to weave itself together to the point that I can't see which is my thread and which is his anymore.

I am a woman, who used to be a girl, who loved to dance and laugh and listen to music and draw and sleep.

See all that love you just read about? And stress? You know there are some good stories lurking there, if you read between the lines. Don't worry, I'll get there.

My point is, that THIS is what causes my ovaries to tremble now. My middle name is Worry. I am a scatterbrain. What do I get fritzed about first? My Mom's health? My Dad's strain? My kids? Their bodies, minds, health, happiness, future, safety, Christmas gift list? My own body? My husband's? The puppy? My best friend, who lives so far away that her kids don't know me because I can't bring them after school treats and read them stories (or ignore them while I drink Chardonnay)? Do we have gas in the car? Money in the account? Water in the Christmas tree stand?

My point is that as a woman, everything causes my stomach to flip. And when it rains, it pours, so when five things are jiggling the egg baskets, a sixth inevitably adds itself to the list.

It's all good. I know there's a silver lining, although sometimes it seems buried under a lot of mud and dog poop and torn Ugg boots. In the meantime, it sure does give me a lot of material for a blog.

If you've got ovaries, or know someone who does, perhaps you'll come back and read again. Feel free to comment too, as we go. Hopefully, the more I lay it out there, the less I'll have to panic about hot lunch and hot flashes and hot ladies flirting with my gorgeous man.

Have a nice day. :)