Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Years and years of church drilled a lot into my brain. Some of it is hard to shake. I grew up Roman Catholic. Mass is very serious. So are sins. The idea of going to confession still makes me shudder. Alone, in a dark room, talking to a priest through a tiny screened window, telling him all the bad things a third grader could do was torture. Sheer torture.

 And then, I remember being given a few prayers to say, and when I completed the task, like a spell, my sins would be washed away. Poof! I felt lighter leaving church. Like a brand new person. A fresh start. Even if a mean thought about my mom's dinner crept into my mind, I would quickly push the thought away. I was brand new. I didn't want my soul to become tarnished again.

I have always thought of New Years Eve as a sort of do-over, since I was old enough to confess my sins. A fresh start. Out with the old, in with the new. Whatever I did wrong, or didn't do at all in 1985 didn't matter, because 1986 was going to be my year! And if it didn't happen in 1986, 1987 was really going to be the year that I shined. When the decade ended, and the 90's began, I remember my mother telling me that whoever I am with at midnight, will be the one I spend the next ten years with.

Bad advice to give a young girl, madly in love with her high school boyfriend, who really, just didn't have the same feelings in return. What followed was a near decade of disappointment, waiting for that stroke of the clock, and date change to deliver. I made sure we were together, as the new decade came in, but the spell didn't work. And each year, and many nights spent alone, I would think that I still had a shot. The old year...good riddance. Here is my newer, fresher, untarnished year. This will be my time to shine.

Now, in the happiest point of my life, I don't quite view the New Year as I once did. For a little while, I secretly made promises to myself to eat better, and finally start something that resembled an exercise habit. I vowed that I would finally get organized, and stop throwing more crap in the already crapped up crap drawers.

 Then when things got really hard for us financially, I would say to David that this was really going to be our year. When he had no job, and I was pregnant with our third baby, I prayed that our ship would finally come in. I thought, please, let 2009 be better than 2008. I crossed my fingers, and whispered a plea as the ball dropped.

But I have come to realize that there are no fresh starts. The spell of a bad year won't suddenly be lifted, like my sins, prayed away with some penance. It is all one big life. Messy, and some days really bad. Really heartbreaking, and stressful. But some days, it makes me gasp, with it's pure beauty. To have another day, here, with my family is all I want. To freeze time, and keep my little girls this little, can't happen. Each New Year, now brings some anxiety for me. Everyone is growing up, so fast. It can't be stopped.

This New Years, we will be home, together, as we always are. And I won't be making any promises to myself that I can't keep. Except maybe to stop, and be present. All I have is right now. But there are little things I can do. Like lighting more candles. Or not rolling my eyes when David lets the girls eat pizza for breakfast. Saying yes more, because it is so much easier to say no. Learn to bake bread, and pie crust. Give my time freely to others. Let my girls put posters on their bedroom doors, even though I think it looks tacky. Pet the dog every once in a blue moon, instead of being annoyed by her. Take walks in the woods without thinking we are going to get chased by bears. Love more. Expect nothing.

Instead of wishing time to pass, I want it to slow down.

 I am going to keep it simple. And enjoy every stinking second of this one life that I have. The good, and the bad.

 I spent so many years waiting to shine, and I never noticed that I already am.

Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

One cigarette

And just like that, it came, and is now gone.

 But the feeling is sticking.

It was such a good Christmas. I felt my heart was really open. I felt more love for my family, and I have never felt more loved in return. In my life.

 Like maybe, I am not doing such an awful job. And maybe my girls are really having a happy childhood. And that I married the best person. My choice was so great.

One cigarette at a dinner party, back in my cigarette days, opened up this whole, beautiful, life.

One simple move. I almost didn't go that night.

But I did.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My most precious gift

Over the summer, I saw a really pretty dress, in a store, at the mall. We were all there that day, buying the girls school shoes and sneakers. It was buy one get one half price at the shoe store, and I had a 20% off coupon, so to say we scored 6 pairs of shoes for three little girls would be an understatement. I felt like we robbed the place! I don't shop much, as we really only buy what we all need, but I really got a high from the money saved. Cha-ching!

After the "score", I wandered into the shop next to the shoe store, and started checking out the clearance rack. There, was a beautiful, flowing, girly girl, summer dress. It was long, and made of cotton. It was all different colors. It was magical. It was something that I never, in a bazillion years needed,or would have purchased for myself, but oh, it was pretty. I even pictured how I would wear my hair, and the sandals I had at home that would match perfectly with it.

David popped into the store, after paying for the shoes, and saw me eyeballing it. It was marked down to nearly nothing, compared to it's original price. David loved it, and said, "Get it. We just saved more than that on the shoes, so just treat yourself, and get it". I refused. Much too frivolous. And unnecessary. And it could pay for diapers, or gas. I just couldn't justify it. I saw David look disappointed, and I got it. He wanted me to do something for myself. But I really just couldn't let myself do it. My anxiety over the purchase would have eclipsed the happiness that a pretty summer dress might have delivered.

David loves records. When I first met him, I thought it was kind of cool that he had a record collection, and really enjoyed listening to the snapping, and crackling of the vinyl on the turntable. It just sounded better. Older. The music had patina to it. We fell in love listening to that turntable. Old Elton John records, and Crosby Stills, and Nash. Dave Brubeck and Stan Getz. David had a ton of jazz albums. Lots of long nights, playing hours of Scrabble, and drinking wine. Talking and telling the stories of our lives. It was everything. It was when I became we, and we became us.

The turntable moved here with us, and we listened to it so much, here in our new life. Three baby girls later, and so much between then and now. Friends, and laughter, holidays, and sad times too. Some new records purchased right here in our new town, adding to our history. We played that turntable until the belt broke, and it no longer spun. It has been silenced for a while now. We both really miss the crackling of records. Especially David. He has tried to repair it. Replaced the belt. Took it apart, all without any luck. It sits, on the shelf, and has become one of the items in the house that requires dusting now.

I really wanted to buy David a turntable for Christmas. I looked around, and new ones were out of the question. Not even close to being in the non-budget we maintain. I began checking out old, used ones, but really, I have no idea if what I am seeing is great, or garbage. And still, used ones were too pricey. I felt bad that I couldn't get him a turntable. We never exchange gifts, but I thought that know...maybe.

Last week, we were at the mall getting the girls some Christmas gifts. I went in one store, and David went into another. I thought he was looking for a bean bag that Olivia had on her list. I walked down the aisle toward the store, and as I did, I passed by the store where that beautiful dress was. I decided to go in and sneak a peek at it, to see if it was still there. As I rounded the rack, there was David, holding the dress. THE dress. I wanted to cry. I really did. David's face dropped. He looked so disappointed that I had ruined his surprise.

 I led him away from the dress, and out of the store. I took his hand, and I said, DO NOT go back there and buy that. We can't afford it. And I told him how much I loved my gift. He was going to buy me that dress, because he knew I loved it, and he loved me. And that alone was more than enough for me.

I love my new dress David. I know exactly how my hair looks in it. I even picked out the earrings I have on. We are dancing. In our living room to Van Morrison. That song we love..Linden Arden Stole the Highlights.  It is playing on the turntable that I so wish I could have gotten for you. Because I know how much you love it, and I love you, and I want you to be as happy as you want me to be. And we are. Without all that stuff.

So let's enjoy this dance. Because it's Christmas. And because intention, and love, and being together, are far better gifts than anything we can hold in our hands. Isn't that what all of this is about?

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Today's breakfast conversation is who can roll their tongue up like a taco shell. Three of us can do it, and Charlotte is just frustrated about it. Olivia can also bunch her tongue up like a flower. A little alarming.

The creamer that was on sale yesterday seemed like a festively good idea. Vanilla Rum spice. This morning. Not so much. I feel like I am having a cocktail at 7:45 in the morning. Not feeling it right now.

The inspection on the car is up, and on top of that, the noise that I have been turning the radio up not to hear, is getting louder. I am actually getting scared to drive it. I hate when this crap happens. David's car needs work too. The run in the hamster wheel gets so tiring sometimes.

The girls will have a happy Christmas. I am thankful for that. The unpaid bills are piling up. I can't think about them. The trip to the mailbox has been both something I have wanted to avoid, because of them, but then all of the Christmas cards makes me and the girls so excited to go. It's a mixed bag.

Wrapping to do. Baking to do. Everything seems so rushed these last few days. I just want to stretch them out. I feel like I have permission to not deal with reality, and the closer it draws to the 26th, it will cease. Olivia said in the car this morning that it is the 20th. I hated hearing that.

I would love it to be the week before Christmas for a while longer.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Monday coffee, and I have no creamer...

My image of Christmas was completed this weekend. We got our Santa moment. And Olivia looked awkward and uncomfortable to see him. It made me sad. She stood back, with that face that let me know she thought she was too big for this. Even the "decorate your own cookie" didn't seem enjoyable. But they fed "reindeer", and watched their baby sister really get excited. It was just yesterday Olivia believed, without question. Not so sure about that anymore.

Even Molly seems bigger this week. She started to talk EVEN more, if that's possible. She even ends her sentences with words like" though", and" suppose". She insists on emptying her dishes and putting (throwing) them in the sink herself.

And Charlotte. Oh Charlotte. She is tough. And too smart for her own good. She got into trouble the other night. This is the message she wrote to David. Her proposition. She likes to bargain her way out of a jam, with that big, beautiful brain.

And my first ever paycheck for writing. It was a sweet moment. We were in a mad rush to get it to the bank, as we really needed the money, but while David waited in the car, I snapped a picture of it. It wasn't a lot, but it means so much to me. Like the first few dollars a business receives, and tapes to the wall. I felt proud of myself.

I got caught up reading a blog last night. It is called Homegirl on the Range. The author of it wrote an article for CNN on line, which is our computers' homepage. The article was about being poor at Christmas. You cannot believe the amount of mean comments she received. It made me so angry. I don't understand how anyone can pass judgement on anyone. People were telling her she was greedy for wanting to give her two little boys something great from Santa. Some even said that if she couldn't afford them, she shouldn't have children. Such ignorance. One man went on and on, lecturing her, and said she needed to explain to her little guys there is no Santa, and that they all need to learn the true meaning of Christmas.

But others, lots of others, felt her pain. And so did I. Feeling scared every time a utility truck drives by, or if the car makes a funny noise. Being petrified when there is an unexpected knock at the door. Trying so hard to keep your family happy, and provide stability and happiness, in an otherwise unstable place. She said you have got to be strong to be broke. I agree. It takes a lot of internal....something....maybe chutzpa? It is way easier to sit, and complain, and worry, and hide.

To try any creative outlet that you can to try and help better your family, or even just to keep you sane, so you are a better mother, in the face of all the stress that you have to shoulder, really does take some muscle.

Visit her blog here. So worth it.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011


We say a prayer each night before dinner. Maybe it isn't really a prayer, but more of a moment together to give thanks for what we have, each day. We hold hands. (Molly suggested the hand holding part.)

The prayer is pretty much the same every night. We give thanks for our dinner, and all that we have. We pray for our soldiers and we pray for three sick children that we know. And we ask that everyone we know and love be taken care of, and protected. My husband used to have the girls add in a little prayer for Derek Jeter at the end, but I put the kibosh on that, because I think he is doing AOK for himself, and there are others who really need our good thoughts.

Someone different says it each night. Depending on the starvation level in the room, it is said either at a medium pace, or quickly blurted out. I love this brief time with my family. It is everything I ever dreamed of. My true love, and my three, smart, healthy little girls. Some nights, I just have to pinch myself. I really can't believe my good fortune.

Our nightly prayer also reminds me of when I was little. My family always said Grace before we ate, and we held hands. Some nights, I really didn't enjoy holding my siblings hands, depending on how I was feeling about them at that moment. I remember rolling my eyes as we sat down. The prayer was almost annoying. I used to just want to be like families on TV, and just dig right in. It seemed silly to me. Thanking God for Shake N Bake pork chops? Really?

And if dinner wasn't finished, there was always the reminder of the "starving children in China and Africa".  Let's mail them this Rice A Roni, I would think to myself. The thankless, compassionless, musings of my my 8 year old self.

Olivia was lying in bed with me the other night. She turned and looked at me, and said that she loves our home, and that she knows how lucky we are to have soft cozy beds, and a warm house. She said that at school, her teacher, Mr Schubert was talking about how so many people don't have a home, and some don't have jobs, or any money. She added that she appreciated having food and clothes.

 I thought to myself, how the dialogue has really changed with all of our kids. There is such a constant reminder in the back of a lot of peoples minds how quickly we can lose all that we take for granted. Even the luxury of a home, or a warm house. Our children are growing up differently. Some kids, like my own, have experienced job loss. They have witnessed very stressed parents. Some have seen more than they should in their young lives.

But maybe our children will be better for it. More aware that we live better than most in this world. That a roof over your head, or heat coming out of your vents isn't just a given, but something that depends on so many other factors.

Today, I give thanks for all that I have. The roof over my head, however temporary it may be, I am grateful for it. The food that we have in our refrigerator, and cabinets this week. The kindness, and generosity that has been given to my family, I am forever touched, and so very thankful for.

 A friend of mine wrote these words the other day..."Just when you think mankind has lost it's way and people think of nothing but themselves you get smacked by true kindness and generosity by strangers and family. May I stay humble and given the chance to pay it forward now and always".

My thoughts exactly.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

looking out

Woke up to this group of does and their babies. I love how they seem to be the same little group. Always together. The moms all looking out for each others young, nudging them along. Sweet.

And then, this little guy tried so hard to get in our house. He had the cutest, black whiskers. He nibbled on a Clementine peel that he must have fished out of our garbage, and maybe thought there was more where that came from. Molly cried with fright at the sight of him staring in the house, and giggled and waved to him, as he walked away.

And my friends situation has gone from worse, to dire. As I sat and made a list of the things the girls had asked Santa for, I wished there was something we could do to truly help them out of the mess they are in. I know how desperate they feel. Getting kicked in the gut, when you are already doubled over in pain is hard to recover from. It doesn't seem like there is an end in sight some days.

That doe really looked into my eyes this morning.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Scenes from a weekend

What a difference a day makes. Going from this.... this

makes me both relieved, and stressed. Stressed that it gets down to nothing, and just in the nick of time, I don't think about it anymore. It is all replenished. I just hate when the girls beg for snacks. Hmmm..let's see what we have. How 'bout a bowl of mustard, and I think I can sprinkle some old capers on top??

So the week ended on a high. I was interviewed for an NPR radio show called "The Story" with Dick Gordon. You can listen to it here.

And the weekend kicked in with getting our tree.

We played Christmas music. And I watched Molly decorate the entire bottom of the tree. And instead of fixing it, after she went to bed, I left it.

Molly helped me make the dough, and I baked up the cookies. By popular demand. I even used local raspberry jam, given to me by the very person who grew the berries, and canned the final, delicious, product.

Despite so much uncertainty in our life together, I have never been quite so happy. And so moved by people who have reached out, and touched our lives.

And then, it all turned upside down, and in an instant, my happiness went to shock and sadness. Not for myself. For some friends, dealt, yet another crushing blow, piled high atop too many, in such a short period of time. It is just too much.

In the quiet of my house last night, while dinner cooked, and Molly slept, and everyone else was out of the house, I watched the light fade from the sky, and turn day into night, and felt so sad for both my friends, and a family I do not know.

And the fragility of every breath.

Driving to the bus stop this morning, Molly said, "The sun is following us mommy".

It is baby.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Feathering the nest

My girls wanted to go to the Stroudsmoor Inn this past weekend. Each year, they have a tree lighting, and Santa arrives, and there are fireworks. I have always wanted to take them, but we literally had no money. I mean zero. Zip. Nada. Taking three little girls anywhere, even to the grocery store is always challenging. They want everything they see. I envisioned taking them to the Stroudsmoor Inn, and everything having a price tag. Pony rides, and petting zoos, all requiring tickets. What would we have done? Made the girls watch the kids have fun, and be unable to let them join in.

I found out the next day that all of those things were free of charge. My girlfriend took her daughter there, and said how fantastic it was. I had one of those "I suck at being a Mom" moments. I have them at least twice a week now. They are getting bigger by the day, and all the magic of Christmas will soon be but a memory. I felt that I missed an opportunity. One that would have cost nothing, and put smiles on my kids faces. At least for the afternoon.

I finished putting out the rest of our Christmas decorations. I love the smell of ornaments and sparkly things coming out of boxes. It is a mix of cinnamon, and magic, and a hint of mildew from the basement that just smells like the holidays. OK, maybe not the mildew part, but, due to our crawl space under the house, where we store our decorations, that scent has become synonymous with Christmas here.

 I set up our nativity. I realized that I had not introduced a vital part of my childhood to the girls. Each Christmas, my mom and dad would put up our nativity set. I loved looking at it. It had remnants of actual straw glued to it, worn away by years of use. It had that magical scent of a far away place (I guess that would be the attic) and my Dad had carefully removed baby Jesus, and his manger. There were glue marks still there, where he was supposed to be.

My mom had us cut up strips of colored paper, to look like straw. I always chose yellow paper, and frowned down upon my brothers choice of purple. We put the "straw" in a bowl, next to the nativity set. Every time we did a good deed, one that we kept to our self, but did completely out of the goodness of our hearts, we were to place a piece of straw in the stable, where the manger would be. We were feathering the nest, making it soft, with unselfish acts.

We were still kids after all, so the good deeds weren't always out of the kindness of our hearts. There was definitely some competition to it. I always used the yellow straw. My brother, the purple. You could see who was the better " do gooder."  Some days, I would throw a piece or two in thinking that I must have done something good that day, and forgotten what it was. Making my bed, which was my responsibility, all of a sudden warranted a piece of straw.

But by Christmas morning, the manger was placed in the stable while we slept, by my Dad. And the straw was piled high. It looked cozy, and made me happy to see how hard we had all tried.

 I set up a bowl of straw the other day, and told my girls what to do. (I also made sure the straw was all the same color, as my girls are competitive about everything!) Right away, it started. Charlotte cleaned the living room. Olivia folded the laundry. They played with their baby sister. They made every attempt not to fight. I watched them, quietly creep over, and place a piece of straw in the stable. I saw the smiles on their faces.

I was smiling too. it isn't a pony ride, but it is something a bit more. Trying hard to do something good.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Scenes from a weekend...

Chicken cutlet parmigiana made with sauce that I made over the summer, and canned was so delicious. I love when something comes together effortlessly. I had all of the ingredients on hand. The house smelled so good. The sauce took me right back to August.

Olivia and Charlotte both had sleepovers. I am never quite at ease when one of my girls isn't home. Their empty rooms made me sad. I put their nightlights on, because they looked too dark. Too quiet.

Charlotte gave me a snow globe. An early Christmas present. She and I sometimes have a hard time understanding one another, but she always knows what I like. She is funny that way. She pays attention to the little stuff. Just not directions.

I noticed buds on our Forsythia bushes. The mild weather has tricked them into thinking it is time to bloom. I ceased the opportunity to go out, and hack off a bunch of branches, and stick them in water, hoping I can force them. I still am in denial that Summer is truly over.

All in all, it was a fast two days. I love the excitement of Friday, and all the possibilities that lay ahead. But I do love when the bus pulls away on Monday.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Did you forget to pay the mail bill?

The trip to the mail box always sucks. Yesterday, it was, yet again, a pile of bills that will be filed in the "can't pay this week" file. Actually, it is a pile. We don't own files. And, funny enough, two credit card offerings from the very mortgage company trying to foreclose on my house. How ironic is that? I wrote, in Sharpie, across the application, "you are foreclosing on my house!" and had to stop myself from name calling. I would not have written anything vulgar. I did want to write the word dummy, though. Thank goodness for the postage paid envelopes they conveniently include.

When I went to the mail box the day before, there wasn't a piece of mail. No fliers, or junk mail. From time to time, that happens, and my first thought is always, "oh gosh....we forgot to pay the mail bill"....and then I come to. Panic, followed by a giggle.

I cleaned the house, and put up our Christmas decorations. I swear, I feel like we just put them away. I mean, JUST PUT THEM AWAY. And the mild temperatures we have been having, up until today, have made me feel a little in denial.

The Spaghetti dinner at Charlotte's school, that we always attend, is tomorrow night. She loves going, and I had to tell her, we couldn't go. She asked why, and, I said we couldn't afford it. She said, with a giant smile on her face, "I understand Mom." She made me proud.

A few years back, when David was unemployed, that Christmas was really scary. We went to the spaghetti dinner. I was pregnant with Molly. I volunteered to help. When I arrived early, no spaghetti was being cooked. I mean, not even a pot of boiling water. I had brought along our lobster pot. It was a wedding shower gift. I had actually registered for a lobster pot, because I imagined this unbelievable married life, complete with numerous lobster dinners. So many, apparently, that our life would necessitate our very own lobster pot. Of course, right?

Anyhow...I filled up the pot, and all of the others, and jacked the stove up, hoping that the boiling would begin. No one was doing a thing. Nothing! I tried looking around for the person in charge, and quickly realized that there wasn't anyone, and took charge. And it happened within 10 minutes.

The dinner was starting in less than 30 minutes. I started barking out orders, and telling people what to do. Sending husbands to the store. Directing kids to set the tables. Telling other mom's to set up a buffet line. I boiled up probably 100 lbs of pasta, and cooked sauce. I really didn't know I had it in me. I had volunteered to "set up", and there I was cooking dinner for 250 people.

I was sweating. When David arrived with the girls, they were disappointed I wasn't going to be sitting with them, and David was actually chuckling, realizing, I was it. I was the cook.

There was one of those 50/50 raffles. I remember telling David to buy some tickets, because maybe, we could win some money. I was actually praying. I recall asking God to get us out of our jam. I was ashamed that I had a baby in my stomach. I was horrified we had to apply for food stamps. I was mortified that a case worker asked me for documentation of my pregnancy, despite my swollen belly. I thought, we just have to win that raffle. We have to.

We didn't. And I felt crushed. I think it was a little over one hundred dollars, but that was more than we had. More than I have presently, funny enough.

Molly is laying on a chair in the living room, in a princess dress. She is 2. And a half. I have to add the half part. We can't go to the spaghetti dinner tomorrow night. But that's alright.

 David just called me. I have to go and make a few calls to our Senators. They are voting today, possibly, to freeze Federal workers pay for two more years, and cut Federal jobs.

 And then off to the mailbox.