Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The good, the bad, and the very ugly.

I have learned some things in the last few days since Sandy blew into town. Things about myself. Some things have surprised me. Some things, not so much. They are the good, the bad, and the ugly. 

I will begin with the good. The good thing is that we are all OK, and our home is intact. My cars did not get crushed by the numerous dead trees on my property, so that is a very good thing. We always have candles, and now we have even more. My Coleman stove is a blessing, and I am glad my friend made me buy it years ago, when it was on clearance. (Thanks Geralyn!) I am finally reading the Wally Lamb book I have been too busy to break into, boy is it good! 
Not having a lot of money normally and buying groceries on a need to eat basis has come in handy. I usually have a lack of protein in my freezer, so this has made the whole lack of power non stressful, IN THAT AREA. Raman is plentiful, and there is a plethora of things you can do with it. 
Not having to vacuum, or do laundry has freed up a ton of time. I mean a TON! I am in awe at how much of my life is wasted doing those things, and I have silently vowed to myself that if I ever come into money, I will have cleaning lady. 
Losing power in the Fall has also been a relief with the whole heat thing. Yeah, it's chilly, but it reminds me of my childhood home, which was always freezing, and we always wore shoes and socks, and sweaters. I had forgotten how cold the tip of my nose can get. 
The bad. Notice I did not mention togetherness time with my girls in the good list. I love them, I really really do, but WOW! I had no idea Olivia enjoys singing sentences in an Ethel Merman, show tune, warble. Unreal! And Charlotte seems to be a natural drummer. She does it non stop with things that I had no idea could double for drumsticks, on any and all surfaces. Again, WOW! Molly does not enjoy not having her little shows to watch, and asks for them constantly. I know she is only 3, but the concept of electricity, and what runs on it is not sinking in. Even a little. I wish I was the kind of Mom who enjoyed board games, but I don't. My patience is hanging on by a ragged little finger nail. The girls want to play outside, but it is cold and damp, and I have no ability to get them warm when they come back in, or properly bathe them, so in the house we have been. Charlotte bawled her eyes out upon hearing trick or treating was cancelled, and said it was going to take forever for Saturday to come because the power being out has made the days so much longer. She ain't kidding. Dawn to dusk seems to be a doubly long day. 
I have yelled, bribed, and almost been brought to tears this week. I never realized how truly wonderful electricity is. How very lucky we are to have it. It has reminded me of being in my early twenties. I broke my arm in a car accident. My right arm, and I am a righty. I had two interns put my cast on. They had not done it before, and what I was left with was an arm covered in plaster from my finger tips, to my shoulder. They rendered my hand useless, and it wasn't even injured! It was a long, hot smelly Summer. I gazed at others using their arms, not even realizing just how lucky they were. How casually they lifted things, and opened doors, and scratched their heads. I was jealous of them, and silently cursed their luck. Kind of like how I curse the sounds of generators humming on my street. Giving homes bits of beautiful voltage. Did they not know how lucky they were? And do they know how insane it is out here, beyond their yard??
The ugly. I didn't have an ugly until I got to where I am typing these words. It is the corner table, right beside the play place at McDonald's. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012


If I could stand in the kitchen all day, chopping, and sauteing vegetables in a pot, I would be content. This is why I love to cook. It is the part that makes me want to try new recipes, and continue to make over, and over, my old faithfuls. I love having my hands on the ingredients, and seeing the transformation. The smells, and the browning of onions, and garlic. I love pouring wine into a pan, and scraping up the bits on the bottom, and making few ingredients turn into something magical. And adding the salt and pepper with my fingers is just delightful.

I have never been into soups. Never ordered them out. Never made them for the girls. Olivia used to see Campbell commercials, and a few years ago, the jingle was sung by a woman with a deep voice, soothingly singing "possibilities". She thought that was what soup was called. We would be in the supermarket, and she would ask for possibilities for lunch.  That just cracked me up, and I would buy the condensed soup for her, and she loved eating it for lunch. She would slurp up every sodium laden spoonful, and beg for more. 

The last few weeks, I have felt heavy. Not physically, although I always do, but heavy in my heart, and in my mind. I feel like I have lots going on, and nowhere to go with it. Things in my life, and relationships, are not quite right. Not really where I would like them to be, and I am fearful they never will be. And money...always money. I have been drawn to my heavy Le Creuset pot. Soup. That is what has been on my mind, when all other things seem to just run in a circle in my head, and go no where, I have been making soup. 

 Two weeks ago, I made a minestrone. It was delicious. I chopped, and chopped, and sweat the vegetables, and simmered the stock. I even squished up the tomato's and threw a few more green beans in, and what I was left with was delicious. I ate it all week for lunch with a little bread, and some parmigiano reggiano sprinkled on top. It got better with each day. 

Last week was a pureed cannelini bean soup that was so creamy and delicious. It got it's creaminess from the beans and nothing else. I put kale into it at the final stage, and ladled it into a bowl. Toasted garlic chips that I had made in a small pan were sprinkled on top, and a teeny drizzle of olive oil. It was divine, and fed me until Thursday.

There is a storm coming. Today was spent gathering camping supplies, ice, batteries. Our lanterns are ready, and we have bags of candles. On the stove, simmering, is my pot of vegetable stock. I chopped carrots, and celery, onions and garlic. Fresh thyme and parsley, along with a parsnip, and scallion are bubbling away. Later, I will use it to make a potato leek soup. I know it will keep for a few days. No dairy in it. I can even put it into containers. I hope this storm moves out quickly, and without damage. I am worried, and stressed. So I will cook. And sweat it out that way.

Yesterday, I got a letter from a reader of my newspaper column. It made me cry. I would like to share some of it....

"I have read your articles since you began and have found them to be most interesting. I have also observed a great deal of growth of wisdom and understanding on your part of the situation you and your family are in. All situations are life lessons, and you are an excellent student.

I am a 75 year old retired math teacher who experienced a childhood much the same as your daughters are experiencing now. Mom was a magician in the kitchen-made soup out of everything! We had carrot soup, string bean soup, Lima bean soup, tomato soup with pasta, potato soup, everything in the pot soup, and so on. She canned fruits and veggies for soups and desserts in the winter. She made pickles and kraut in a crock in the basement. I had a peanut butter sandwich and a container of milk for school for lunch everyday for six years. Helping her, and watching her handle difficult times, prepared me for dealing with adversity later when I became a single parent of four daughters"......

Wow. I literally teared up, and was amazed at the timing of this beautiful note. A stranger sharing a part of her life with me. Suddenly, I recalled my Mom's chicken soup, made from the roaster she made for dinner, and all the leftovers thrown into it. I could almost taste the delicious rye bread she would make, to go along with her famous fish soup, made with whatever veggies she had on hand, and a block of frozen fish she would take out of the freezer, that was shaped like a rectangle. And I remember the little Faber-ware pot on the stove that she would make potato soup out of, and ate that soup all week for her lunch. I used to think she adored potato soup. Now I think that was all she had for herself, saving other things for us to eat. 

My pot of soup will hopefully make it through this week. I will keep my fingers crossed that we don't lose power for too long. The thought of my refrigerator filled with food spoiling makes me tense. We can't replace it. But we will have no choice but to weather the storm.

 And from the storms weathered by women before me, we will do just fine. 


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fall evening

I am unsure when Charlotte, my 7 year old, went from thinking I was the bees knees, to thinking she knows way more than I do. It has been a slow progression. One that, most days, it seems I was unaware of, but suddenly has become quite apparent. Blue eyes so painfully gorgeous are now rolled in my direction, constantly.

I had visions of being "that mom" when I was a kid. The cool, laid back mom, that all of my friends liked. The mom that was a friend more that a parent. The mom who said yes, provided junk food, and let you go outside without a jacket. I was determined to be that mom.

And then I became a mom. I quickly realized that never would I be my kids friend. They would have a ton of them. I choose to be mom. Maybe, one day when they are older, and have gotten through all of the hurdles they have laid out before them, and have families of their own, we will become friends. Until that time, I will be mom, and do my best to guide them into being successful, happy, productive people. I will not be the cool mom that their friends like, because I remember that mom. She let us smoke in her house when we were teenagers. She looked the other way of who was coming in and out of her house. I loved that mom! Hence..I will never be her.

Even when the girls are begging, they are required to wear proper outerwear. I recall wearing an awful hat on my head as a child. It was shaped like a marshmallow. And it was made out of faux fur. Two giant pom poms hung from ribbons that tied it below my chin. Awful, awful, awful. My mom made me put that thing on as soon as the first leaf turned orange. I felt like the royal guards, outside of Buckingham Palace. It was that tall.

OK, maybe I wouldn't victimize my girls to that extent, but my point is, hats, gloves, coats, are a must. I have done this for years now, as the weather changes, as most responsible parents do. Olivia never really argues. A few huffs and puffs, but she relents. Always. Charlotte however...holy moly. I have to hand it to her. She is stubborn and will stand her ground until it gets to the point of tears, and punishment. She will never take the easy way, and just put the stuff on, and be done with it. She will choose the route of protest. Last night, she wound up in bed at 7:15, howling and weeping away, all because she refused to listen to me. When she heard her sisters were watching repeats of Full House, it took a turn for the worse.

I looked at her in the eyes this morning, as we waited quietly for her bus. I said the same words to her, as I do most mornings. She can't explain why she fights with me. She feels remorseful, always, but she said that she thinks that sometimes, I am wrong, and she is right, and she just won't believe otherwise.

Seven. She is seven. And I suppose, I just don't want to break her of that. Fearlessly standing her ground, despite not getting what she wants, just to prove her point. Taking her punishment, but believing she is right. And really, yesterday after school wasn't all that cold. My insisting on the coat may have been overkill. A sweatshirt might have sufficed.

Maybe meeting halfway is something to be explored.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The most painful words I have ever read. God bless this family.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Pasta was on sale at Shoprite the other day. .88 cents a box. I picked up a few boxes, and when I mentioned the price to David, he went back and bought 8 more. My cabinets are crammed with vermicelli, and rigatoni. My mudroom has about a bushel and a half worth of tomatos that I canned into sauce over the summer, from all the tomatoes we got from Josie Porter Farm. I have gallons of the stuff.

I have some flour, and a dozen eggs. Sugar, and rice. Coffee was on sale too, so I have two cans of that. Rice, and beans, onions, scallions. A few bags of potatoes, and a ton of green beans. Oatmeal and Cheerios, and I think there is a package of frozen bagels somewhere in the freezer, next to the chicken, and pork chops. I also have ground turkey, and sausage.

There are radishes and leeks in the fridge as well, and some corn on the cob. I only have one banana left, and a lonely apple. There is a half gallon of orange juice, and a little under half a gallon of milk.

We are on one of the last few rolls of toilet paper...something we go through at lightning speed in this house, so I am making sure when it is quiet in the house,I need to check on Molly immediately. She can normally be found unspooling it in the bathroom. Normally I rip off what she has unraveled all over the floor, and throw out, but yesterday, I wound it back up. We need every last sheet.

It is Wednesday. I have half a tank of gas, and I will have to make that last until Friday. Next Friday, that is. And the above grocery inventory is it until then as well. School lunches and snacks will get tricky next week, but I have peanut butter. The bread could pose a problem. And my kids will not be happy if I send them to school with radishes. Sure, they like them, but a lunch of them just wouldn't cut it, so I will have to get really creative. I am also out of plastic wrap, and snack bags. Actually, I am out of snacks so it doesn't matter that I have no bags to place them in.

I hate when we run out of stuff before we run out of week. It makes me stressed beyond belief. I hate that I won't be able to give the girls a piece of fruit with their breakfast, but I suppose our problems could be way worse. There will be complaints over the lack of things the kids like and want. They will have to just accept not having choices for the next week or so. I know they will. They have no other option.

Things don't usually get this stretched. We are just having a rougher than normal month. But we have enough, and for that, I am grateful. Reading about people, right here in our own community though, living under a bridge makes me shudder. No one should be living under a bridge. No one should be sleeping outside, and worrying about the weather getting colder. The line at the Wesleyan Church every week for the food pantry wraps around the building. Charlotte got excited last week when she saw it, and said "what is going on the church?" thinking people were lined up for something spectacular.

My heart sunk as I looked. And a feeling of selfishness came over me. I have pork chops, and a package of chicken, I thought. Yeah, my girls will not be happy with pasta and sauce for a few nights in a row. And there is only so much you can do with celery. But we have it. And we have heat and blankets, and soap and warm water. We have a home. And everyone will be fed...albeit one bizarre meal after another, concocted solely from ingredients on hand...but we will eat.

Those people shouldn't be living under a bridge. The cold weather is here. What can we do, as a community for them? You might not think you have enough...but I bet if you took an inventory of all the things you do have, not just in your kitchen,  you would see you have more than you need.

We can do better than this.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tuesday the 16th

When I first started writing here, in this space, I did it because I had no where to go with all the stuff in my head. Too much stress, and pressure needed a place to go, so I could attempt to be a good mom, despite feeling like I wanted to check myself into a psych ward.

I wondered if it would ever be read. And slowly, it began to happen. There were mixed feelings. I liked that it was being read, but it made me feel more vulnerable. And really, at first, I thought, I should just delete the whole thing.

Now that I have readers, here, where I live, and friends, and family, I feel like I don't spill my guts like I used to. Like I avoid the one thing that gave me calm, and a place to put it all. Instead of venting like I used to, I feel guarded, and that I can't put it out there anymore. Like too many people I know are reading my diary.

I say all of this, because there are so many things that I want to say here, but I worry that I just can't put it here, because I fear what people will think or do. The truth is I have such an unbelievable amount of stress going through my head right now, and I have no one to talk to about it, and no where to put it.

My writing used to be an escape. Now, it just adds to the pressure in my head.

I hate having no where to go with this.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012


My oldest daughter Olivia wanted to participate in a program at her school, called Girls on the Run. From what I understood of it at the time, was that it is an after school running program twice a week. I was all for it, but when I heard that the registration fee was more than we could swing, I got that familiar pang in my gut, knowing I was going to have to tell her we couldn't afford it. That is a regular occurrence around here, and mind you, my girls handle it very gracefully. Too gracefully sometimes. It doesn't make me feel any better though, when an afternoon activity has to be scrapped because it simply isn't in the budget.

I then was informed that if I volunteered, my daughter would not have to pay the registration fee for her to be involved. This would require me to be a coach. OK....that is extremely funny on so many levels, and for people who know me, they get it, and I am not at all offended by the chuckles. But for those of you who don't, let's just say that inserting the title "Coach" before my name still makes me almost spit out my drink.

 I have never been athletic. I attempted, mind you. Numerous times. I found some success with field hockey, and tennis. Actually, I adored tennis. I was good at singles. That was probably my peak, as far as sports. In Physical Education, I was the girl loathing volleyball. Even today, when I hear the word "rotate", I cringe! And my feeble attempt at track was heartbreaking in hindsight. I hated to run. HATED IT! I recall going around the track in the winter, being barked at by a coach shouting into a bull horn, and being utterly shocked at how cold the air was that I was breathing into places in my lungs that I never knew air went to. It felt like I had inhaled a thumbtack. Utterly painful, and my track season turned out to be very short lived.

I have done lots of things that I am proud of in my life, and as far as being a good example for my daughters, most days, I think I am doing OK. I achieved my childhood dream of working in the fashion industry and living on my own, in the greatest city in the world, NYC. I traveled, and really had quite a time of it, before I made the choice that I was ready for motherhood, and all it entailed, at the ripe old advanced maternal age of 33. I have morphed into a painter, and photographer, and surprisingly enough, writing has become a passion. I encourage my girls to never stop dreaming or becoming what they want. That even if you decide on what you want, and you get there, there is no ceiling. You can keep going, and try something else. Keep setting, and achieving goals.

My only doubt, as far as living by example, was my lack of enthusiasm for the physical arts. This had never really bothered me when they were really small, but as they have gotten older, I began to see that I was not quite up to snuff in that category. My "do as I say, not as I do" approach was not cutting it. "Go out and play, be active"! I would scream from the couch, or in front of my computer. "No you may not have anything to eat after dinner", as I remove the bag of popcorn from the microwave.

 I suddenly have begun to realize, it is time to put my money where my mouth is. Now, twice a week, I find myself running along with the girls, that I am coaching. OK...walking quickly most days, but I am trying. And Girls on the Run is so much more than running, which really surprised me. It is teaching girls that they are beautiful on the inside, and to never doubt that. That despite what others might tell them, they can accomplish anything. Even if it's one more lap around the field.

 Talk about setting goals... I have to run a 5K in a few months! Inhaling cold air and all!! The best part is my running mate will be my daughter, and a group of girls that I just adore, and have taught me, that I too must not forget that I can still accomplish anything. I have many dreams left to fulfill.

Living by example is a lot of work. Kids looking at you, to set the tone...some days, I want to run and hide. I don't want my harshest critics to see me following a different set of rules. And I really want them to know how vital it is to  never stop dreaming, or becoming what you want. And if you decide what you want, when get there, is great, but there is still more to do, know that there is no limit. You can keep going. Keep setting and achieving those goals.

It's never too late.

 Thumbtack in the lungs and all.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tuesday morning

It seems that I have bitten off a lot this school year. Not too much, mind you, just more than usual. I find myself having less time, to do what I love, which is write, and paint, and edit my photos. Even finding the time to take photos is something I try and set as a goal for myself everyday, but it hasn't happened in the last week or two.

We are stretched to the max this week. Friday, which is payday, seems like a lifetime away. I am out of most everything. I can make one more dinner containing a protein between now and then, but there looks like we will be having a lot of pasta in the next few days, and lunches are out for me and David. They are reserved for the kids. I could stand to miss a few meals. Believe me. And so could David.

Our garbage didn't get picked up yesterday because we have a $37.00 balance. Can you believe that! I was so annoyed. David looked like he was going to have a stroke. It just never ends some months. Our garbage account is suspended until we pay the balance, and of course, to "unsuspend" it, you know what that means. A fee. A fee for someone to strike a key on a keyboard. I costs you so much more money to be broke. Believe me. Someone is out there getting rich off fees that we have been paying for the last few years trying to play catch up from the month before. Sometimes, I could cry. I feel like we are never going to get out of this hamster wheel. Most days though, it makes me laugh.

My problems are tiny compared to so many. They are minute. They mean nothing. And really, I will forget about them by next month. Because the garbage will be picked up. And we will have food in the fridge by weeks end. And there will be other bills to worry about. And more late fees to pay. And by the time David gets his pay, we will be in the negative before it even gets deposited.

This life we lead some days just makes me shake my head, and smile.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Last week, I had a chance to meet with a group of ladies who refer to themselves simply as "the Group". There is no catchy name, but a lack therof, hence the name they refer to themselves as.

 One of the members contacted me, wanting to help out my neighbor, who I had written about here in this space, just a few weeks ago. He has had a heart pump implanted into his own heart. An artificial way, to keep his own failing heart going, until a human heart can be matched for him. He is a veteran, and he and his wife are just trying to keep a roof over their heads, and  two other generations, who happen to live with them. "The Group", along with many people, right here in our own community, reached out, with not just kind words, but into their own wallets, to assist this family. The outpouring was really beautiful, and to say that the family is thankful, would be an understatement.

"The Group" really interested me. Their sole purpose is to help out someone, locally, and they do so anonymously. They don't want their names involved, at all. They want to simply assist  someone in need here in our community, without the recipient ever knowing. Help without thanks. It seemed so pure, I thought. So selfless. And really, it is.

Since meeting with these ladies, I have thought a lot about what I can do. Most days, I feel I can do only for the people here with me. My girls, and my husband. We live hand to mouth, and most weeks, I am just happy that my groceries stretch to the next paycheck. David and I sometimes talk about all of the people we would help if we "had the money". All the family we would take care of. The charities we would love to donate to. But it always seems to be so large scale. Like it should take lots of money to lend someone a hand. And really, it doesn't.

A gift card for groceries for a family is huge. Take it from one who has been the recipient of one. It is amazing! Small little things that alone seem like a pebble in the ocean, but combined, become so much more. "The Group" takes money from it's members, that would otherwise be spent on lunches out, or other activities, and pools it's other resources, and asks for donations, all in the name of helping. They simply passed me a sealed envelope which I hand delivered to my neighbors, and that was that.

It was that easy. It should be that easy.  Compassion, and empathy should be the only option rather than looking away when you see someone in distress, thinking you can't help. Wouldn't it be a wonderful if we all extended a hand, a hand to help, instead of turning our backs, despite our own circumstances? Wouldn't it be great to help out the struggling family that you see everyday, with the help of others combined, and do so without saying a word?

"Everyone tries to define this thing called Character. It's not hard. Character is doing what's right when nobody's looking".

 -J.C. Watts