Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Storm Damage

Hurricane Irene was coming. I of course, prepared for the worst. I started buying candles, and batteries last week. We got ice. We took out the Coleman stove. We unearthed the lanterns. I filled water bottles. I made sauce all day on Saturday, and canned it all. I made more pickles too. I forced David to grill chicken, so we would be able to eat dinner on Sunday. I made pasta and potato salad, all without mayo, so it wouldn't spoil. I was ready. And scared.

I kept thinking that I had not done enough. That there was perhaps one more bag of ice I should have picked up. Did I have enough diapers? Did we have enough candles? I saw on a website about what to have in an emergency kit. One of the items was sturdy shoes. I thought to myself, should I go and dig out all of our sturdy shoes, and line them up by the door? What was that for? In case we had to make a sudden trek into the woods, in the middle of the night? I shuddered at the thought.

When the lights did go out, it was just about the time that the wind gusts got really intense. I kept waiting for a crash. I kept expecting an explosion of glass. I made the girls stay away from the windows, and go into the interior rooms. I was petrified. For a good three hours, I couldn't really say much.

If a tree crashed into the house, we wouldn't be able to repair it. If tree limbs came down upon our cars, we couldn't get new ones. If there was damage to the house, we had no means to pay to fix any of it. I kept saying prayers under my breath to just get us through. To just get us all through.

When the winds subsided, David went to the basement, and came back looking pale. He said there was almost two feet of water in it, and it was nearing the hot water heater. I cringed. We can't afford a new hot water heater. What are we going to do? We are one household repair bill away from disaster on a daily basis. This will kill us.

But the power came back on. And the water began to slowly pump out of the basement. And it never reached the hot water heater. The cars are still in the driveway. Surrounding them are rotting tree limbs, that narrowly missed hitting them. No trees on the roof, or shards of glass went flying. Just a lot of debris. And one snapped trumpet vine.

And then I read in the paper, about a local man killed when a tree limb snapped, as he and his son were trying to hook a car battery up to their sump pump, to get water out of their basement. He was killed after he pushed his son out of the way of the falling limb.

I suddenly felt very silly for being worried about household repair bills. A broken window, or a new water heater would have been a hassle. But it would have been nothing more than that.

This man's family has suffered irreparable damage.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


I read a really interesting Op-Ed piece the other day, written by Warren Buffett. THE Warren Buffett. I believe he is one of  the wealthiest people in America. The kind of money he, and quite a few of his pals have, is money that could never be spent in their life times. Imagine that? Money you could never spend? An endless supply of it.

The article he wrote was for The New York Times. It was titled "Stop Coddling the Super Rich". He basically wrote about how our leaders have asked us Americans to sacrifice, in these terrible economic times. Yet, when he questioned his uber-rich pals, about how these sacrifices were effecting them, they all agreed that they had all been spared. None of them were hurting, struggling, going without. They were all untouched.

He went on to say that it is us, the poor and middle class, the ones fighting in Afghanistan, the ones struggling to make ends meet, the ones losing our homes, and experiencing job loss, the massive amounts of us depending on food stamps to feed our kids,...we are the ones that are doing the sacrificing. The people with less. The people with little. The people with nothing. We are the ones that are doing the sacrificing, and paying the most taxes, to protect the super rich.

I get it. They work hard. They made money. Why should they have to sacrifice? Why should they have to foot the bill for a floundering nation? I mean, it seems that it makes perfect sense for the poor and middle class to keep footing the bill. Instead of asking super wealthy Americans to pay as much taxes as we do, why don't we instead take away teachers jobs, and cut programs like WIC, that feed newborns, and their mothers. Why don't we cut school lunch programs, that families depend on feeding their children with, and in some cases, is the child's only real meal of the day. Let's possibly cut Social Security benefits to people depending on that money. Let's cut out Head Start programs, that children count on, and even better, cut welfare programs.

Let's continue to ask the wealthiest, smallest percentage of Americans to sacrifice the least, and deny programs that help Americans to do the very minimum. Survive. Educate. Feed. Our elected officials are protecting the wrong segment of our country. They are cutting things that we all need, to protect those with so much. I am relieved to know that I am not the only one that thinks that this is insanity. Warren Buffet said in his article that government revenue sources came from personal income taxes, and payroll tax. 80% to be exact. "The mega-rich pay income taxes at a rate of 15% on most of their earnings, but pay practically nothing in payroll taxes.It's a different story for the middle class: typically, they fall into the 15 percent and 25 percent income tax brackets, and then are hit with heavy payroll taxes to boot".

If our leaders are asking all of us to make sacrifices, shouldn't they be across the board? Shouldn't we all be shouldered with the same burdens? And shouldn't those of us who can't really shoulder too much of this burden be asked to carry less? It all seems a little bit skewed to me. Warren Buffet ended his article with this: "My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It's time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice".

I couldn't agree more.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Old dog. New trick.

I am now officially capable of canning. I taught myself to do this, over the weekend, and I cannot tell how useful this has made me feel.

I took pounds and pounds of heirloom, and cherry, juliet's and purple Cherokee tomatoes, and roasted them with onions and garlic, and then pureed them, and added yummy fresh basil and oregano, and MORE garlic, and the result was a delicious sauce, with some kick to it, after I told David to add whatever he thought it needed.

 I carefully ladeled it into jars, and processed them, and I can't explain to you the feeling I got when I heard all the little metallic pings sound off in the kitchen, signaling the canning process was a success. I realize how odd that may sound, but canning has always seemed like somewhat of a mystery to me. I pictured little Amish women preparing for winter. Or church going, blue haired ladies, jarring up their prize winning preserves.

Yet, spending a grey day in my kitchen slicing up cucumbers, and dill was really relaxing. Not only did I make sauce, but we have a nice supply of pickles, for all of our pickle needs, and I also pickled carrots, and green beans. Tomorrow, I am going to take the giant bowl of tomatillos and hot peppers we have in the kitchen, and roast them up for a salsa.

Knowing we have food "stores" also eases my mind. Like we will be OK in a pinch.  Not that a dinner of pickles and sauce would be greeted well by my girls, but it satisfied some sort of primitive urge. The hunter and gatherer in me. Preparing for leaner days ahead.  

It sounds nice thinking about a snowy day, that will be here all too soon, and making sauce from tomatoes that we got at Josie Porter Farm, our wonderful organic farm here. This summer has been so wonderful, in all of it's simplicity. Some plans changed. Some goals shifted around a bit. But to be able to taste a little bit of what we had these past months will be really sweet.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


The light is changing. The cicadas are deafening at night. And it is becoming so hard to get out of bed on cool mornings.

 Charlotte saved her cherry pits. Looks like we will have cherry tree planting to do this Fall.

Summer is coming to it's always abrupt end. Quickly. Camp projects around the house will soon give way to mounds of school papers.

But this summer has been sweet. Few disappointments. Even Charlotte's carrot patch yielded half an inch long carrots!

But Molly is frustrated. She still has not been able to hug the baby deer. She has been trying so hard to make friends with them.

We are just savoring the last bits of this season together.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Yesterday, I turned 40. It was a birthday I was dreading. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I just never thought I would be 40. It has always seemed, to me at least, that at 40, you are officially a grownup. You need to have it really together at 40. 401K's and college funds for the kids. Maybe even wills. Paperwork that is official, in fireproof boxes. A savings account, with money in it! Emergency funds, and investments. That is age 40 in my mind. Or it was, until I got here.

No college funds. No investments. No will. Not even a fireproof box. I think there is a shoe box under the bed, and a mess of papers, and envelopes in the dreaded "drawer". The savings account is laughable. Just a checking account. One that is emptied out as soon as the paycheck is put in, at that.

We are broke until payday. Of course my birthday would fall between pay periods. My parents came for a visit, and took me grocery shopping. My Dad actually apologized for not having a gift for me. "Are you kidding me?" I thought, looking at my cart filled with fruit, and vegetables, milk and meat. This is fantastic!!!! Yet, walking out of the grocery store, I felt like such a kid. Here are my parents, taking care of me and my family. Helping us out. It shouldn't be this way. It should be the other way around.

We had a really great dinner. David grilled, and I took full advantage of the date. I didn't fold the laundry, and I knew the dishes in the dishwasher were clean, but I left them to be "found" by David. I put my feet up, and let my kids make mud pies outside. And I thought that I don't feel 40. I don't have all the official stuff I thought would come with this new decade. Hell...we are having one of our worst struggles financially, right at this very moment.

And instead of feeling bad about myself, I felt lucky. I felt blessed. I have a love I never thought possible. I have three smart, beautiful daughters that amaze me every day. I have two parents, still here with me, who I love, and love me tenfold in return. I might not have a home this time next year. And I can guarantee I won't have a savings account.

But looking at the girls gigantic smiles in the glow of ALL the candles on my cake, I saw all the riches of my life. The dream of a family, come true.

 Right there in front of me.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Compassion and empathy are gone. 

The time we are presently living in, is one of the most economically challenging. To call it tumultuous would be an understatement. Job loss. Foreclosures. People relying on food stamps, unemployment, and free lunch programs are at record high levels. Job creation is at an all time low. The past decade saw a middle class that did not improve. The median salary actually went down. Food and gas prices are at all time highs, as well as health care costs, and no one has a higher paycheck to offset these costs. The middle class is suffering. BIG TIME.

A friend of mine on Facebook posted something yesterday. I read it, and I was stunned. It was titled "A Texan's Answer to Welfare".  In a nutshell, it was an extremely unintelligent,   piece about welfare recipients, and how they are all freeloaders. It reeked of hatred, and racism. It suggested that if you are receiving welfare, you should only be able to eat rice, and blocks of cheese, and drink powdered milk. It said that women should get tubal ligation's, or be forced to be put on birth control. If you need housing assistance, it stated that you should live in barracks, and have your possessions inventoried, and sold. You also must perform community service in exchange for assistance. And the piece de resistance...give up your right to vote.

Now, I know some people out there actually might agree with this bizarre ideology. Clearly it gained enough popularity to be put on Facebook. It even got a few "likes". "Thumbs up", if you will. I don't know which emotion I have covers the feelings welling up within me.

There was anger. Immediately. I fired back on her post, statistics, and facts. I questioned this post she decided to make public, and wondered why so much hate and anger,  resentment, and entitlement.

But sadness is the underlying feeling that is really swelling within me. A class division that I see, not just in an ignorant Facebook post, but in our land. A lack of caring for your fellow man. A view that people needing public assistance, or losing their home, or collecting unemployment, are freeloaders. That families feeding their children on food stamps are dining on steaks, and laughing about "free money".

Is this what the have and the have nots are becoming. Further divided? Further misunderstood? When you see the news, and read the paper, and unemployment is at an all time high, and even the government is having credit problems, this is because people made bad choices? Empty houses and shuttered businesses are just coincidence?

I also read a post from another friend. It said this. "Be kinder than necessary, for everyone is fighting some kind of battle".

I gave this one a thumbs up.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Summer is flying by. All of the things we wanted to do, and had planned to do, are turning into the things we didn't do.

But what we did do, was amazing.

Monday, August 8, 2011


I can't begin the huge list of projects I want to do. I am so scattered. I start doing one thing, and get to thinking about the next one, and abandon the first. I started another post here a few minutes ago, and stopped mid-sentence. Too much swirling around in my head.

I found this. www.tinytexashouses.com  I am simply in love with them. It is relaxing just to sit, and look at the interiors of these little places. Tonight, I will dream about the house here that is my dream house. On a creek. Three floors. 100 years old. Barns and outbuildings. 4 acres, and a tree swing. Can't get it out of my head. I will place one of these little houses on the property. Somewhere. A tiny get away. A place to camp out in. And lights strung from the trees that shade it. Thoughts like that lull me right to sleep. I can almost feel myself there.

And then I found this. www.rikshawdesign.com  and started to wish that I could sew. Or just dress in these beautiful dresses and shirts, everyday.

The giant pile of laundry isn't going to put itself away. It's nice to dream though. At least while Molly naps.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


My girlfriend invited me and the kids over to her neighborhood pool yesterday. She lives in a beautiful community. Big, beautiful homes. Lovingly manicured lawns. Large lots. Multiple car garages. The curbs are Belgian block. The trees are hardwood, and tall. All situated atop a mountain. Really picturesque.

My girls played in the pool, and ran around in the sprinkler park. To say they had a fun day would be an understatement. I put them in the car to go home, and before I had even turned out of the community, Molly was out cold. So out cold, it was one of those times that I could change her diaper when we got home, and she never stirred. Good, hard, fun in the sun makes kids so sleepy, and so willing to go to bed, and me, very happy.

While we were at the pool, my girlfriend saw some of her neighbors there. They all began to talk about all of the people they knew up and down their block that had suddenly vanished. U-Hauls being loaded in the night, and houses discovered empty, only after the weeds began to take over the once carefully mowed lawns. They spoke of their children being disappointed because of the sudden end to friendships. Playmates gone with their family. No goodbyes. I guess maybe some too saddened by losing it all. Maybe it is easier to just look ahead, than to look back.

I often wonder if, and when, we finally have to leave our home, how will we feel. Will we go willingly, into the sun? Or will we want to quietly leave, into the night. No farewells. Just sorrow that we could not save what we worked so hard for.

I am not well versed politically. I cannot quite discuss that topic as well as others can. But I know what I see. And I see loss. I see people's lives changing in a manner that they cannot right, as hard as they work. They can't recover from job loss, and pay cuts. Corrections are being made for corporations and and even our own government, but they are not being corrected for the masses. The people who really need relief. The pendulum is not swinging far enough in the other direction.

Shopping in Shop Rite the other day (where the nicest people work!) I started talking to a woman who works there, and she told me how her husband had lost his job after 20 plus years at the same place, and was out of work for 18 months. In order to save their home, one that they had worked for their whole lives together, they had to empty out their retirement. And pay the penalty for doing so. They have no money set aside for their retirement. Not a penny.

That is what is making me crazed the most. People doing the right thing, their whole lives. People working hard, and creating lives for themselves, and having all of that pulled out from under them. I am not talking about those who have more than most. And those who live beyond their means. I am talking about hardworking Americans, who might not get to see the fruits of their labor. No pendulum is going to swing far enough in their direction.

There are a lot of us. I think it stinks.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Laundry list

 The last few days of being 39. The number 40 seemed like light years away when I was younger. I know I am not old. But I am getting older. And along with me, so is everyone else I love, and care about. And to be truthful, I am a bit vain about this upcoming birthday. I never thought I would get here. And here it is. Approaching. Bearing down.* Ugh.*

I have been thinking about what I have learned in all of these years. What makes me, me. There is too much to list here. To much to even process in my own head. But I thought I might try and come up with a short list. So here it goes.

Family is everything. First, there is the family where you come from. They are your beginning in this life. And then you fly the nest, or flee the coop in some cases, and make a life for your own. And the family you make is everything. And then you realize just how damn hard it can be at times, and that you should not blame your parents for anything.They did their best. And some days, I don't even do that. It is incredibly hard, and incredibly beautiful. And then some.

Humor works. Always.

I loathe "pop-overs". Hate! Not the kind that come out of the oven. The kind that show up at your front door.

I don't return calls. I am awful with that. Always have been. And when things get sucky, or the going gets tough, the tough do not always get going. The tough sometimes crawl onto the couch, and watch Real Housewives, and don't answer the phone.

Friends come in the most unlikeliest of packages. And friends who you thought were gone forever, sometimes come back when you least expect it. Never give up on anyone.

You MUST marry your best friend. Not the bad boy. But the one that made you dinner. And only bought one bottle of wine. (I am Irish, after all!)

Plans change. Even when they seem set in stone, they can disappear, right before your eyes. It might not mean something better is coming. Maybe it just means that it saved you from something worse.

My children are evidence of the love David and I have. That still amazes me. I don't always like them, but Ilove them, and understand what it means to be willing to die for someone.

I am a great cook, and I apparently have a green thumb. Two things that have really surprised me.

I am awful in an emergency. Blood, crashes, fire, all of it. I panic, and scream. I cannot hold it together ever in a crisis. I can't even fake it for the sake of the kids.

I hate being in fast cars, but I love driving fast.

I never should have satisfied my life long curiosity of chicken fried steak. Completely unnecessary. I still shudder at the memory.

I would like to be a better mom, and wife, and friend, and daughter, and sister, and cousin, and aunt. I am committed to attempting to do so.

I hold grudges. And the only one that it ever hurts in the end, is me. Stupid. And something I am trying to change.

I wish I really knew my mother. More importantly, I wish I knew if she liked me, as a person.

Eye contact is key. Be wary of the eye wanderers.

I won't accept no. I simply won't. I will fight, and exhaust everything and everyone in my path until I know that I didn't give up, and turned over every single stone.

I had 3 C-sections. I have never felt like I gave birth, and therefore, I am not as much of a Mom as the ones that have pushed their babies out.

I still cannot believe I am married, and have a family. Every time I am at my parents house, I visit my wedding dress that is hung in a closet there. I take the shoes out and try them on. I look at the swirl pattern on the bottom of the sole, and smile, thinking of myself dancing.

I am lucky. In every way. I have skated through this life. We are in a bit of a rough patch right  now, so the more I think about it, I really shouldn't complain.

I do believe, the best may be yet to come.