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Friday, December 27, 2013

Oh My Gravy!

         It’s two days after Christmas and now that I’ve had a little time to recover I can reflect on the event of the year for me.  I spent about three days cooking, and weeks baking cookies and planning in anticipation of the big day.
         Anna helped me prepare the food and we had lots of it.  Stuffed mushrooms, shrimp cocktail, garlic knots, dips, chips, cheese, sausage, and crackers graced the appetizer table for our Christmas Day Afternoon Buffet (as I named it). A savory ham with pineapple gravy was the centerpiece of the dinner, flanked by two different chicken dishes, pasta primavera, rice, and rolls.  We topped the feast with Christmas cookies and candy served with hot beverages.  All were well fed and content.
         In between eating there was much merriment as evidenced by the laughter ringing throughout the house.  A modest sized house lends itself to participation from the next room in word related activities, so I was able to fully enjoy the absurdities in the Mad Libs and the resulting conversations in the dining room.  So it happened that as I was clearing up between courses the disaster occurred.  For the second holiday in a row, despite my best efforts, there is no gravy left for reheating.  Last time it was because I failed to warn my sister in law that the pan’s handle was loose and the gravy ended up all over the stovetop and the front of the cabinet.   This time, I had the container almost on the shelf in the refrigerator when it slipped out of my hand. Four cups of silky golden brown deliciousness splattered the inside of my refrigerator, my pant legs, shoes, and the floor, running under the refrigerator as well!  My daughter came running, I called for a custodian (although none came since I was in my house and not at work), and there was much slipping, sliding, and laughter as we tried to clean up the mess.  None of us had the heart to tell my husband.  He waits all year for the ham with the gravy and leftovers; it’s one of his very favorite things.  So now, as I write this, I am trying to recreate some gravy with the leftover ham.  I will of course use the boiled ham bone to make broth for pea soup, and use some of the ham for ham salad sandwiches; perhaps I will even make a pot pie.
         We had a very merry Christmas here, even with the spilling and mess.  I hope you all had a merry Christmas with few spills.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Scraggly Tree

         Did you ever feel like that scraggly little Charlie Brown tree?   Like all around you there are beautiful, shiny, straight, tall, strong, spectacular trees, getting all the attention and making you look even more puny, plain, and scrawny?  I think we’ve all felt like that at one time or another.  When we compare ourselves to others around us we can feel like we are less than they are, focusing on our shortcomings as we see them, and concentrating on only the strengths that we perceive in those around us.  If we looked closer, we’d notice that there is maybe a light out here, a bend in the trunk there, and little patches where the needles are a bit sparse.  We might see that they are not really getting more attention than we are; they just happen to be what is needed at the moment.  If we are patient, someone will come along and see the value of us, and take us home.  Then someone else comes along and wraps that blue blanket around our trunk and suddenly we feel wanted and important.  Pretty soon there are beautiful decorations and lights making us feel special and, yes, even spectacular.  Friendship is the blue blanket, and kind words and deeds are the ornaments and love is the illumination.  It is then our time to shine.  So the next time you find yourself feeling like that Charlie Brown tree just wait, soon enough you’ll be feeling wonderful; and if by chance you recognize a fellow scrawny tree, be that blue blanket and watch the little tree shine.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Slow Down

               On the day after Thanksgiving I took my husband’s car to go to the supermarket for a few non-holiday items.  I found myself cruising down the two lane highway almost 20 miles per hour over the speed limit, and adjusted my speed accordingly.  It is so easy to go well over the speed limit without realizing it when I’m driving my husband’s car.  I have to be constantly aware of how fast I’m going when I take it, as I don’t wish to get a speeding ticket.  I feel like the holiday season is another area where I need to check my speed constantly.  Like driving that sleek black car, it’s easy to just speed along to Christmas week and the New Year without realizing it.  This year I’ll have to be extra vigilant because we have just a few scant weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas in which to enjoy all the holiday cheer and events that come along. I’m trying not to get so wrapped up in the things to do that I forget to actually experience life.  I’d like to be more in the moment when shopping, writing cards, baking, watching a Christmas special on TV, attending a party, or wrapping gifts instead of thinking of everything still to be done.  Do less, enjoy more will be my motto.  Slow down, the holidays should be traveled through at 25 miles per hour, not flown through at 70.  After all, life’s a journey not a race.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Sue Verses November

Because I think that focusing for a month on things for which I am thankful helps me go into the frenzied Christmas season in a better frame of mind and keeps me grounded, I thought I would share all of my November Facebook statuses here.  I made them rhyme (although not always well!) because I can and it gave me a little mental challenge every day.  Thanks for visiting my thoughts. Enjoy!


This year I'm doing 30 days of thankfulness so for November first I'm thankful I've been given a gift for writing verse.

On thankful day number two I am giving thanks for you, if you're reading this, you see, we are friends, you and me💕

On thankful day number three I give thanks for all I see from loved ones faces to cloudy skies I'm so thankful I have eyes.

On thankful day number four before I dash out the door I am thankful I have work and friends to toil with is a perk.

On thankful day number five I'm grateful I am still alive.

On this sixth day of November I am thankful I remember who I am and where I've been so I don't make some mistakes again.

On thankful day number seven I give thanks for those in Heaven who while on Earth were dearly loved and now reside with God above.

On this day, November eight, I'm thankful for food on my plate.

November ninth I give thanks for trees for all they do for us, they clean the air of pollutants from car and truck and bus, they house the birds and squirrels and bats, they beautify our habitat, and in the autumn proudly wear flaming red and orange hair.

On day ten of thankfulness, I'm grateful because I am blessed to have in life my brothers three who were there to grow up with me.

On the eleventh day of thanks I think of those who drove the tanks, or went on foot, boat, truck or plane to keep us free from terror's reign, our veterans today remember they are the heroes, our defenders.

It is day twelve of thankfulness and with wintry weather it's a test, but weather cannot get my goat, I'm thankful for my nice warm coat!

Thirteenth day for giving thanks dawned sunny and so cold that I am grateful on this day I've warm blankets to unfold.

On day fourteen of giving thanks I'm thankful for the tea I drank, it started my day off just right, I'll have another cup tonight.

This day I'm thankful for my girls, one who sits while the other twirls, they are different from each other, I am honored to be their mother, it's day fifteen, we're halfway done, soon November will be gone.

On thankfulness day sixteen I'm grateful for the man who very many years ago bravely took my hand, he's not let go through anything that has come our way, with a heart full of love I give thanks for him today.

I'm thankful today for leftovers, I use them in so many ways, today I made soup, so yummy to scoop, on this rainy November seventeen.

I'm thankful for my paring knife, I find it is a great device, it peels an apple, slices cheese, cuts mostly whatever I please, so that is it for day eighteen, I hope your day is peachy keen.

Today I have much gratitude for the freedom to choose my attitude, on this nineteenth day of November I'm thankful I don't often surrender to the negativity all around, with optimism I am usually found.

Day twenty I'm thankful for my couch since lounging on the floor makes me say ouch!

On this twenty-first day of giving thanks, I'm grateful for memories of harmless pranks we played on a teacher when we were in school, we had so much fun, we thought we were cool, the teacher in question didn't get mad so we weren't in trouble and boy were we glad!

On November twenty second I'm thankful for my dinner, 'cause Friday night mac'n'cheese couldn't get much better!

November twenty third is here and thanks I am giving for time to take a little nap and for this life I'm living.

I give thanks today for volunteers who give their time throughout the year, they sing in church, they man the shelters, bring peace and comfort to helter skelter, they put out fires and build houses, give of themselves in hero doses, on November twenty four I give thanks to those who give much more.

On this twenty-fifth day of thanks I am grateful for everyday moments, the small celebrations, laughter and tears that our little family collects through the years, they cannot be purchased nor taken away, and for that I am thankful on this November day.

On this day I give thanks for the girls who I see every day who make time at work seem a lot more like play, on November twenty six I give thanks to each one, for giving me laughs and making things fun.

On November 27 thanks give I for the ability to make pie, also cake and fresh whipped cream which will top the yummiest desserts I've ever seen!

I'm thankful for memories of Thanksgivings gone by, and for the white snow that today meets my eye, a peaceful morning to count the year's blessings, November twenty eight we think of those missing.
On November twenty nine I'm thankful that I have some time to rest, relax, read and play; the chores can wait just one more day.
The final day of a thankful month, I can't believe how fast it passed, I'm grateful now that I can choose to make my grateful attitude last, when thankfulness is how you live you'll find you have much more to give, and that's my little ditty for November thirty.

Now, bring on December!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Today I have much gratitude for the freedom to choose my attitude, on this nineteenth day of November I'm thankful I don't often surrender to the negativity all around, with optimism I am usually found.

On Facebook I've been posting a rhyme each day since November first for which I am thankful; this was today's.  I have been asked periodically how I can be so upbeat and positive.  "How do you do it?" is the way it's usually phrased.  It always catches me by surprise somehow.  I'd say I don't know how I do it, but I do know.  I choose to be happy, content, hopeful.  There have been times when I was depressed, negative, and mostly angry.  It is exhausting!  I know people who always seem to be angry, looking for the worst to happen, and looking for a fight at every turn.  I don't know how THEY do it!  I tried for awhile to keep up the snarky attitude and found it wearisome.  I've said before that I think I just have a merry heart.  Truly, I don't remember sad times as well as I do happy times.  I love to laugh, I love to make others laugh, and so I choose most days to do as much laughing as I possibly can.  To have hope, to give others hope for a better outcome or circumstance is how I choose to live.  I'm not saying that I'm never negative or feel hopeless, but I try not to stay there for long.  And I have the freedom to choose to be that way.  So do you.

I leave you with this verse that I wrote when I was a child:

Happy faces smile no matter how long the mile,
Nor how high the hill or how nasty tasting the pill.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

There's Always Laundry

         You know there’s truth in that title.  I can spend an entire day doing laundry and at the end of the day there’s not an empty hamper in the house.  I know I’m not alone, it’s a common subject around the lunch table, and goes without saying when you ask someone what they did on the weekend: laundry.  We try to find ways to cut down on it, wear your pants 2 days in a row, going out for the evening?  How long did you really wear that shirt?  A few hours? Heck, just hang it back in the closet as long as nothing was spilled and you weren’t perspiring!  Just think of all the extra time we’d have if we didn’t have as much laundry to do!  One day as I was loading the washer for the umpteenth time I began to think that perhaps being a nudist would be a great way to gain some extra time for enjoyable things such as book reading or a hobby.  As I considered that I soon saw a flaw in the plan.  Nudists surely have laundry too.  No, really, think about it.  Wouldn’t they want slip covers on all their furniture?  What if you had fellow nudists over for a party?  You’re not going to be standing all the time, I’d want fabric slipcovers on everything; all those naked butts on the couch?  Yuck!  I’d have to constantly be washing all those slip covers.  Even if say you gave everyone a towel to sit on, or some type of fabric mat they’d still need to be washed.  You could ask everyone to bring their own, but you know how it is—there’s always someone who would forget.  So, I guess I’ll forget the whole nudist idea and keep looking for sales on detergent and softener and try approaching the laundry as a hobby.  Sure, and maybe join Pintrest and post creative pictures of the baskets of laundry, I could even start a laundry as a hobby club!  We could do a tour of Laundromats; make a list of the ones with the best snacks in their vending machines or best proximity to food establishments!  Boy, this is going to be great—oh wait, got to go, the dryer just stopped.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Cinderella's Slipper & a Red Dragon

         I know that there are people out there, who may just be angels on Earth, sent to remind me that there are those who cherish Hillary as much as we do.  Over the years as I grumbled my way through crowds at the mall and cried inside at amusement parks there is usually someone who extends a kindness unexpectedly, reminding me that others see my daughter’s value and recognize our family’s challenges.  Sometimes it’s as simple as stopping to say hello to Hillary and wish her a happy time, or opening a door as we approach.  There was a time when we were traveling through Ohio and a woman stopped at our table in a restaurant to tell me what a good mother I was. So simple, yet so powerful and needed at the time; I still tear up when I think of it.  I think it was probably about 15 years ago when we were at the mall shopping in the Disney store, unknown to us we were being watched.  We exited the store and were walking through the mall when we heard a man calling to us.  We stopped and turned around as he approached, holding out a small snow globe with Cinderella’s glass slipper inside.  He asked us if we would allow him to give it to Hillary.  He said he had been watching us in the store and Hillary had touched his heart.  The snow globe sits on her dresser where every morning and night I am reminded of how kind some strangers can be.  It was around the same time that we went on a Girl Scouts trip to Hershey Park as a family.  As we were sitting on a bench with Hillary next to us while Anna and her friends went on rides we were approached by a small group of teenagers.  One of them extended a red stuffed dragon toy to Hillary and asked if it was ok if she had it.  It also is in her room where I see it every day.  I could tell of more incidences of such random kindness as they are kept in my memory like treasures in a box.  I examine them on those days when I need an extra reminder that angels are among us.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Zombie Spiders

         With hatred in my eyes I step outside and calmly walk to the edge of the front deck.  I spot my prey and with my arm outstretched I aim, hold my breath, and watch the object of my dislike curl its eight legs as I douse it with a stream of Raid.  After what seems like five minutes but is actually a few seconds it falls into the bushes, leaving behind a web the size of a small car stretched from the window to a forsythia bush in the middle of the front yard.  This action is a repeat of one I performed a few days earlier between the boxwoods and hydrangea next to where my daughter parks her car.  A few days later there is need for the same thing this time between the house and deck rail along the ramp.  These tiger striped zombie spiders are really bugging me!  There are a couple in the garden of weeds between our driveway and the neighbor’s, and then, while sitting in the comfort of our living room my daughter spots one in the middle of a window more toward the side of the house.  Thankfully it’s on the outside, but in a spot that my Raid can’t reach. 

         I am not a fan of spiders in general, but these particular spiders seem especially menacing.  They are fairly large and tend to sit in the middle of their web awaiting their prey.  When it’s breezy out they are still there, undulating in the web as the air is stirred.  It’s creepy!  There was even one living behind the driver’s side mirror on my van.  We discovered this one day at the McDonalds drive thru.  Thankfully my husband was driving and knocked it down where I’m sure it began life anew terrorizing patrons and employees.

         Hopefully the cooler weather we are having now will keep the zombie spiders at bay, at least until next summer when I’ll be stalking them once again with a can of Raid.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Old Notebooks

Before I turned on the computer tonight I was looking through some old notebooks, searching for something I wrote in high school, intending that to be the subject of this post.  I was not successful finding what I was looking for, but realized that each of the notebooks I found was a time capsule.  The one that stays with me is from Hillary’s first year or so of life.

         It begins with a record of a dream that I had which although was of a somewhat disturbing nature ultimately left me with a peaceful feeling upon awakening.  There are several diary type entries about Hillary’s development, diagnosis, and prognosis; as well as my hopes for her life.  There are notes from doctor’s visits and phone calls, test results and questions I wanted to ask (and did, and recorded the answers).  I found the spelling of my friends’ daughter's name and the birth information for my neighbor's second child. There is the phone number for my sister-in-law’s hospital room from when she had brain surgery, and a few notes about bills that needed paying.  There were a couple of rather poignant poems I wrote, and a page that Anna drew on with a red marker.  On the covers are some scribbled phone numbers and the license plate number for another sister-in-law’s car, along with some doodles and dates.  On the final two pages are a recipe I copied from somewhere for a casserole.

         Looking through that notebook was a quick look at a very stressful, eventful time and I’m glad I have it, to help me remember how things started with our special needs journey, and to see how far we’ve come.  It was a bittersweet thing to find and reflect upon, but I’m so glad I have it.

``     ``                              ``                                               ``     ``

Here is the recipe on the final pages of the notebook:

         Hungarian Kielbasa & Noodle Casserole

Prep: 20 min.

Cook: 43 min.

1 lb. potatoes, cut into ½ “ pieces

½ lb. extra wide egg noodles

2 Tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1 large onion, chopped (1 ½ cups)

1 ½ teaspoon paprika

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup chicken broth

½ lb. kielbasa, cut in half lengthwise & thinly sliced

1.)       Grease a 2 qt. casserole.  Heat oven to 375 F. Place potatoes in a large saucepot of lightly salted cold water.  Cook over high heat until water comes to boil. Reduce heat & simmer about 10 min. until just tender.  Remove potatoes with slotted spoon & set aside. Add noodles to simmering water in same saucepot & cook 5 min. or until just tender.  Drain well & return to saucepot.

2.)       While potatoes are cooking, heat butter & oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onion & cook 8-10 min, stirring occasionally, until tender & lightly browned.

3.)       Add diced cooked potatoes, paprika & salt to onions in skillet.  Cook, tossing, 2 min. or until potatoes are golden red.  Add chicken broth & boil 1 min.  Pour potato mixture over noodles & toss to mix well.

4.)       Pour mixture into casserole.  Toss kielbasa over the top, tucking some pieces into noodles.  Bake 20 min. or until heated through.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tuesday’s Thoughts

         We’re having some lovely late summer weather, blue skies, gentle breezes, cold nights, warm sunny days in the 70’s; just perfect!  When the afternoon begins to wind down and the sun is slanting, deepening the shadows by dinner time I’d like to go sit outside and watch the day go to sleep while sipping some spiced cider or mulled wine.  Oh how I would love to be that person!  Alas, that is not how my days end.  I am, instead, inside my house.  Feeding and bathing Hillary, making dinner, packing lunches for the next day and taking care of the dishes.  Such is my lot in life, right now anyway.  One day before the days are too short and too cold I’m going to be that person.  I’m going to just treat myself and put everything on hold or get someone else to do some of it so I can try that person on for size.  It’s nice once in a while to step into different shoes for a bit and see how they fit.

         I’ve been making mental notes about things that need to be done outside and the first thing on the list is remove the hanging baskets as the flowers have died and it’s beginning to look like nobody lives here from the street.  The flowers came back nicely the end of July once the hottest weather broke.  The potted vegetable plants didn’t produce this year, but they were still nice to look at and as long as they are alive there is hope that something will appear.  The flower garden we tried to plant along the driveway was overtaken by some aggressive weeds.  We may need to think about some landscape fabric or perhaps newspapers under the mulch next spring.

         We gave Hillary a very nice 21st birthday party at a local restaurant.  We bought Mylar balloons and tied them in twos using plastic bead necklaces as weights.  Those balloons are so festive and Hillary loves them.  Now they’re home with us and when the air stirs and they knock together it sounds like someone is walking through the house—kind of creepy when I’m here alone.  Perhaps I’ve watched too many crime dramas.

         That’s probably enough thinking for a Tuesday evening.  After all, I’m still trying to recover from Monday.  Nothing special happened Monday, it was just Monday.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Beginning the End

         The final school year for Hillary began last week, and her 21st birthday is coming in a few days.  It’s the beginning of the end of life as we know it.
          I’m glad for me that this is the last year I will have to fight with the school system to give my daughter the services she needs.  I’m so sad for her that in just 10 short months she will move on to a place that is not filled with young people and lots of hub bub.  Things will be different for both of us, as I will be unable to work the hours that I do now since the day program I hope she will attend runs 2 hours less per day than school does.  Change is hard, even when it’s expected!  There are so many things up in the air and I find the unknown to be unnerving to say the least.
         Once a developmentally disabled person becomes an “adult” at the age of 21, they are no longer eligible for public school.  They may finish out the school year in which they turn 21 but then they graduate.  They are then at loose ends, out into the great abyss of the world where no school bus comes to pick them up, and no staff waits to greet them and help them through their day.  My daughter is “lucky” because she is so disabled as to be eligible for a medical day program.  At least there will be something for her to go to so she doesn’t have to just stay at home with me, bored out of her skull, days broken up only by trips to the mall or supermarket or library.  What kind of life is that?  Although it’s not about me, I am affected by it all.  I will need to find a new job, a prospect I don’t look forward to at all.
         In the meantime, I’m determined to try and enjoy this final school year, and my final year at this job with people I so love working with.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

What Have I Done?

         I would love to turn on my computer every day and write, or just look around the internet, maybe do some research.  I promised myself in January that this year I was going to do just that, every day for at least 30 minutes. Ha!  Promise to self--broken!  Realistically the time I would be able to do that would be about 8:00 pm.  That’s the time by which all of the other tasks that need my attention most are finished. It’s my official “quitting time” from my job as mowifrienhomemaker. (That’s mother, wife, friend, and homemaker)  I find, however that by that point in the day the last thing I want to do is turn on the computer.  Even though it is something I will enjoy, my energy is just gone.  I look around and say to me, “what have you done all day that you should be so tired?  It looks as if you’ve done nothing!”  Oh how unkind I am to me sometimes!  There may be dust, the floors may not be swept or vacuumed, there may still be clothes in the baskets, dryer and hampers, but you know I have not been idle.  I’ve made sure everyone has clean clothes.  I’ve given my princess her medicine and changed her several times, as well as spoon feeding her each of her meals.  I’ve prepared and cleaned up meals, grocery shopped, made sure all supplies are at hand for whatever is needed.  I’ve made phone calls, chatted online (on the iPhone), gotten the mail, paid bills, and a host of other small tasks that need to be done in the course of a normal day.  If it’s a work day for me, I’ve gone there and run around for my allotted time.  It just feels as if I’ve accomplished nothing because most of what I do cannot be measured or seen by a casual glance.  It is, rather, an accumulation of my family’s good health (especially Princess Hillary) and happiness by which one can tell that I don’t sit idle.  So tonight I say “kudos to Sue!” for a job well done, and for putting aside the fatigue and turning on the computer!  I will try from here on to do that at least 3 times a week, and to be kinder to myself.  We all should treat ourselves with kindness, give yourself a break—it feels great!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Vacation 2013

          On the fourth night of my recent vacation I updated my Facebook status by saying the sometimes I feel as if I can’t hold one more drop of contentment.  That’s the truth, and how I was feeling that night as I sat on the hotel balcony on the bank of the St. Lawrence River staring at the stars and listening to the soft lapping of the water on the rocks below while reflecting on the past few days, and our plans for the next and final full day of the trip.

          We arrived in Alexandria Bay, NY on Sunday, midafternoon.  We were excited not just to be on vacation, but because we would soon be reconnecting with childhood friends of my husband whom we had not seen for over 20 years.  We had a nice evening with them, after meeting for drinks and dessert we walked up to the park overlooking the river and sat talking at a picnic table late into the evening like teenagers.  We spent the following day with them, taking a boat tour and ending with visiting in our hotel room after dinner until they finally had to leave for home.  The next day, despite being showery, we spent walking through the town looking in the shop windows and watching the river and boat traffic from our balcony.  Wednesday dawned cool and cloudy and was spent much the same way as the day before except for the bright sun once the clouds blew away.  In the evening we took a picnic dinner to the park where there was a free concert by a local blues band.  We bought both of their cds which they sold during a brief intermission, and walked back to our temporary home in semi-darkness talking about how much we had all enjoyed the concert, and remembering the one from the year before.  Once we got Hillary settled into her bed I headed out to the balcony where I felt the sense of contentment I mentioned earlier.  The following day we spent pillaging the souvenir shops for treasures and ended with a dinner at the nicest restaurant in town.

          Our vacations are slow paced and relaxing which is, in my view, just what a vacation should be since we spend the rest of the year for the most part rushing and running from one thing to another.  I cherish a string of days to let my mind wander and feel the fullness of my existence.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Dishes in the Sink

         There are those who will say that dishes left in the sink overnight is unacceptable.  While I generally don’t leave them there before going to bed, there are times when I do.  Last night was one of those times.  It was 9:00 by the time I would have gotten to them, and although I wasn’t tired, I’d had too much fun yesterday to spoil the mood with such a mundane task.  My daughters and I had a game day on our back deck with my sister-in-law and niece that began with lunch and Mad Libs.  After feasting on cold cuts, pickles, chips and laughs, we moved on to board games such as Apples to Apples and Pictionary.  We broke briefly for coffee, cookies, and muffins and continued on until my husband arrived home from work.  At dinner time we ordered pizza, watched Jeopardy, (well, that’s a game!), then returned to the deck for another board game until darkness kept us from seeing.  We moved inside for tea and the rest of the muffins over yet another game until we realized the time.  The evidence of our day was piled in the sink, and I simply turned off the light and sat down with my husband to watch a ballgame before retiring.  Upon being greeted by the sinkful of dishes this morning I smiled to myself remembering some of the funny moments from yesterday.  Now, if I could just start having the same positive attitude about laundry……..

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Mama’s Pans

         I’ve been spending the past few weeks trying to avoid the things that I must do that I don’t want to think about let alone do.  I took a short foray into one of those must do’s and spent a good chunk of the day in tears until I made a conscious decision to do something that I wanted to do and did it.  Since that day I’ve been trying to mix in every day something that I do for no other reason than because I want to and it will make me feel happy.  So it was that yesterday I found myself contemplating my maternal grandmother’s cookie sheets.

         I was in the kitchen clearing up dishes and cleaning things when I spied in the cupboard a pouch of gingerbread cookie mix and a tube of vanilla cookie icing.  I love making cookies!  I love eating warm cookies!  Out came the mix, a bowl, and the pans.  The pans are old.  My mother had them all my life as far as I remember; they had been her mother’s before that.  They don’t make pans like that anymore.  They are sturdy, rustless, heavy and a bit blackened with age and they bake cookies like no other pans I’ve ever used.  I like thinking about all the thousands of cookies that have been baked on those cookie sheets.  Christmas cookies, potluck supper cookies, bake sale cookies, college care package cookies, and now just because I want to cookies.  My daughter came into the kitchen and asked why I was making cookies, and approved of my “just because I want to” response, as did my husband when he got home.  The ginger snaps were delicious, and we even have some left.  I think it’s important to include in everyday things that we do simply because we want to, especially if life is filled with things that we don’t really want to do, but truly must.  Do something to make yourself happy and everything else won’t seem so bad.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Some Things

It’s been a while since I’ve done a list so decided tonight might be a good time to do one of some things that have brought me pleasure lately.

*Central air conditioning!  It’s hotter than hot here in NJ lately!

*Listening to our local radio station with its interviews with people from local organizations, some who I know, trivia contests, “swap ‘n’ shop”, and “talk of the town”, as well as playing songs considered “oldies” but that I know most of the words to.
*Sipping iced tea and reading a book while waiting at a coffee shop for a friend to join me for lunch.
*Meeting friends for breakfast and lunch---love my summer time freedoms!
*Baking blueberry cake and eating it with vanilla ice cream!
*Watering the plants and filling the bird baths.

*Spending lazy afternoons watching crime drama reruns.
*Donating usable but unwanted items to Goodwill.
*Trimming some bushes early in the day.
*Puttering in the kitchen while singing along to a favorite cd.
*Watching bees enjoying the blooms on the Rose of Sharon outside the kitchen window.
*Watching the lightning bugs rise up out of their hiding places at twilight and seeing how high they go.
*The way the setting sun lights the underside of the trees.
*Feeling the fan stirred air cooling me as I lie in bed at night.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Running Into Adulthood

Some people run into adult hood with abandon, arms wide open, figuring things out as they go, delighting in each new discovery, trial, and triumph; never looking back except to wave good-bye to childhood.  Then there are those who are dragged by the ankles, kicking and screaming into maturity, fearing the unknown; looking back at the safety of childhood and longing to stay there forever.

I took the former attitude when I was young.  I was delighted to be out on my own.  My mother was very unhappy that I moved out, but having my own apartment with my friend, filling it with second hand furniture and dishes, unmatched towels, living on pizza and donuts—now that felt like living!  I had no idea about checking accounts, budgets, laundry, or anything related to being an adult, but I learned as I went, worked extra shifts to have enough money to pay bills and have fun, and occasionally had to wash clothes in the kitchen sink.  I didn’t care, life was good, life was fun and I survived!  Eventually my mother got over it and would send me back to my apartment after visiting with clean clothes and enough leftovers to keep hunger away for a week or so.  It’s a time I look back on with much fondness.  I’m so glad I had the opportunity to experience living on my own and taking care of myself.  Honing my ability to think on my feet and survive was great preparation for the twists and turns my life has taken since I was that crazy 19 year old striking out on my own.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

It’s A Mad Lib Life

         When I was a kid one of our favorite games was Mad Libs.  For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s a series of writing tablet style books with a paragraph or two on each page, each page generally unrelated to each other, with words missing in the sentences.  The missing words are represented by a blank line with what type of word, such as noun or adjective, is missing written in small lettering underneath.  One person chooses a page and asks the other players for the words, without reading the paragraph to the group until all blanks are filled in.  The result is usually so funny that it’s tough to get through the whole paragraph without stopping to catch your breath.  This game is still one of my favorites to play with my brothers and their children.  One line that I still remember from when I was a kid and playing with my brothers is from “The Three Little Pigs”.  In this abbreviated version of the fairy tale the line “and he huffed and he puffed” ended up being replaced with “and he went and he gone”.  I can still see my brother Doug’s face turning beet red with tears streaming down his cheeks as we laughed until we couldn’t breathe and our bellies hurt.

         I’m noticing more and more that my conversations are getting to sound like Mad Libs.  I don’t know if it’s hearing loss, or people mumbling more or I’m just not paying attention but I’m hearing some pretty crazy sentences throughout my days.  I was talking on the phone to my sister-in-law who told me that she had just come in from working in the garden and had been attacked by a bunch of speedos. Wow! That produced some disturbing images until I stopped laughing and realized that she said a bunch of mosquitos.  Then there was the day at work when I was told that Linda dropped an eye in the pizza.  Ha ha! No, she dropped ice in the freezer.  Another time one of my coworkers, who is from another country and has a fairly pronounced accent said “I have no tongue, I need tongue”, we all looked at her in puzzlement so she repeated herself, “I have not thong, I need thong”, as we laughed and she repeated herself again and began making hand motions we realized that she wanted tongs to pick up the lettuce with on the salad bar.  It’s a good thing she likes us or I think she might have been angry.  I’m not going to get into the misheard song lyrics and don’t even get me started talking about those auto corrected text messages!  It’s getting to be a Mad Lib world.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Heat Wave

We’re right in the middle of an early summer heat wave, or more specifically, sauna like weather.  It is so humid out that breathing is difficult, and the lows at night are somewhere around 70 with highs hovering around 90.  I know for some of you this is weather you may be used to, but here in my corner of New Jersey we can usually count on the nighttime low being in the mid to low 60’s, and the kind of weather we’ve been having generally only lasts 2-3 days, but we are approaching 2 weeks and no signs of change on the horizon if the weather people are right.   As I was driving to a family celebration the other afternoon I passed a woman jogging along the county road on which I travelled.  As the air conditioning was blasting in my car I wondered who in their right mind would be out running in these conditions.  Upon further consideration I remembered that as a child I was out running around every day in the summer heat whether playing Frisbee or baseball with my brothers, chasing butterflies by myself, or tag with friends, heat and humidity were no obstacles.  Now I’m such a wimp that I won’t even go for a walk in the morning if it’s too humid.  We were also outside after dark.  If we weren’t playing hide and seek, we were sitting on the porch as a family drinking lemonade and just talking—it was too hot in the house and we’d sit outside until bed time in the summer.  Now we have central air and I can’t help but feel that I am somehow wasting the summer away waiting for it to be comfortable outside.  I think I have this argument with myself every summer now, whether to go outside and enjoy the sights and sounds of summer or stay inside where the air is more comfortable and forget what season it is.  I really think I should go outside, at least until I start to sweat and truly feel that it’s summer.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

July 4, 2013

Independence Day Memories:

We don’t celebrate July 4th like we did when I was a kid.  When I was growing up every holiday was celebrated at my house.  Mom made tuna macaroni salad, potato salad, green Jell-O salad, and lemonade.  Dad cooked hamburgers and hot dogs on the charcoal grill.  We had watermelon for dessert, and after perhaps a game of kickball or tag we’d gather back around the still hot coals and toast marshmallows on sticks we found and Dad whittled to a point with his pocket knife that he always carried.  After consuming those lovely toasted marshmallows my parents got out the sparklers.  This was my favorite part!  I just loved running around with a sparkler in each hand drawing designs and writing letters in the air until they burned out.  Sometimes we’d listen to patriotic music on the tape player, I just love all those John Philip Sousa marches—now that’s my idea of patriotic music!  We’d hear fireworks in the distance, but I don’t remember going to any.  Now, sadly, it’s pretty much just another day at our house for me.  Bruce goes to march in a parade in another town in the morning, Hillary needs the same care she always needs, if Anna’s not working she’s out with friends or catching up on things she needs to do.  We grill some hamburgers, I make potato salad, and after Hillary goes to bed we watch fireworks on the TV.  It’s still nice, but sometimes I long for those simple celebrations of my childhood.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


“There’s no such thing as an ordinary cat” is what the fortune cookie said.  I’m not a cat lover, nor a cat hater; I’m neutral when it comes to them.  They’re cute, and amusing, and people seem to be fascinated with them if the pictures and videos posted on Facebook are any indication. 
When I looked out the front window this morning I saw “Kitty” standing on the deck, his head and one paw extended through the slats drinking water from the small fountain we have there. “Kitty” is the neighbors’ cat but spends a lot of time in our yard and on our deck.  Sometimes he leaves us a dead mouse, sometimes he just sits and watches the birds.  We’ve caught him sitting on the rail looking in the screen door, and at times lying in front of the door.  I don’t know what kind of cat Kitty is, nor what his name really is. He is a beautiful black and white cat with large round green eyes.  His coat is shiny and his eyes have intelligence to them that I never knew a cat could have.  When we speak to him he looks right at us and blinks as if considering an answer.  There are two other black cats belonging to different neighbors who also frequent our yard, one is smaller than Kitty and is scraggly and scrappy looking with squinty eyes that runs away when we get near.  The other one is between the other two in size and general appearance.  It doesn’t have as friendly an aspect as Kitty, yet isn’t scruffy or scrappy looking like the other one, nor is it as timid as the latter or as friendly as the former.  I think the presence of all three cats is keeping the squirrels away as we haven’t seen as many since we noticed the cats hanging around.  We’re not sure what the big attraction is for the cats in our yard but they aren’t hurting anything and don’t seem to fight with each other so we don’t mind them.  I think the fortune cookie was right, not one of the cats in my yard is ordinary. Each one is extraordinary in its own way and has a personality of its own.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

My Lunch Lady Heart

As my 13th school year ends I am elated at the prospect of some free time during the summer (one of the perks of being a 10 month employee!).  Since I began this illustrious career in an elementary school and moved to the high school only 3 years ago I am still serving some of the same students from my early days.  Even if I don’t remember all of their names, I recognize the faces.  Some of them haven’t changed much, just a lot taller and with less of the baby look about them.  Underneath all their teenage bravado they’re just kids who want to eat when they’re in my line.  Sometimes they remember me and ask how I’m doing which I find very sweet.  My colleagues and I are noticing how increasingly when we are out at local stores and restaurants the roles are reversed and these same children we serve food to are serving us, and they recognize us.  Not only do they know who we each are, (perhaps not by name), but they seem genuinely happy to see us!  So we are not just the faceless people slapping food on a tray and collecting their money, we are part of their school life. One recent day as I was setting up my station some of the students were standing nearby.  One girl who was absentmindedly watching us expressed to me how we did a lot of work just to serve them lunch.  Wow! Knowing that at least some of the students have respect for us, and are seemingly glad to see us makes my lunch lady heart smile.  A nice note on which to begin my summer.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Remembering Dad

My Dad fixed radios and cars, mowed over Mom's flowers in the yard,

 Worked long hours every day, didn't have a lot to say,

 He was there and he was calm, in times of stress he was a balm,

 We miss him so every day and honor him on Father's Day


Dad was the one who mowed the lawn once the old push mower was replaced with a motorized version.  I only ever remember my mother using the old non-motorized one, and only remember Dad with either the gas or electric powered models.  My mother loved to plant flowers around the yard, and worked hard to keep the weeds at bay, (unlike me who grows a bumper crop of weeds along with flowers every summer).  There was one particular spot on the side of the house by the kitchen window where she always wanted a pussy willow.  I’m not sure how many times one was planted there, and was just starting to take root and grow when we’d hear “crunch!”, followed by the lawn mower’s sudden silence and some curse words.  Dad ran over the pussy willow—again.  I’m not sure why he kept forgetting it was there, I suppose he was just wrapped up in whatever thoughts he had while cutting the grass.  We were probably lucky he didn’t run over one of us four kids—surely there was some temptation there at some point!  It sort of became a family joke; after all, he also ran over the little pine trees we planted after bringing them home from school on Arbor Day—one of them actually survived and grew taller than the house.  I’m not sure if it’s still there as I haven’t driven past the old place in a couple years.

Dad was an avid chess player and reader of paperback books.  He spent a lot of time reading mysteries by Agatha Christie and westerns by Louis Lamoure.  He’d play a game of chess against anyone willing to play, and although he passed away when my oldest daughter was rather young, he taught her at the age of 5 to play chess.  I never had an interest in chess, I preferred (and still do) playing games that involve words.  Cribbage was another game he enjoyed and I have to say I did try to learn it a number of times but strategy and math are not my thing.

He was a quiet presence, and I recall as a small child running around excitedly when he came home from work.   After dinner he’d read me a fairy tale, my favorite being “The Brementown Musicians”, and play “Patty Cake” or “Slap Hands”, which was an invented game where he’d put his hands out palms up and I had to try to pull my hands away before he clapped his together.  Silly, but it kept me entertained and probably improved my reflexes!

I’m so glad I have such happy, vivid memories of my father.  He was part of “the greatest generation” as Tom Brokaw put it, and I think he was right.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Crushing & Events

I've been a little lazy with writing these past few weeks, as I'm sure you can tell if you visit this blog with any regularity.  In fact, I've only turned the computer on a couple times in the past month or so.  I wish I could say I was doing something important or amazing or that I'd been traveling but alas, I cannot.  We've had several events to attend, Hillary had 2 dances to go to, Memorial Day weekend flew by, we had my niece's confirmation, and a graduation party to attend.  Aside from that it's been work, house things, reading, and a Candy Crush obsession stealing my writing time away.  Most of those things I just mentioned are inevitable parts of having family and friends and obligations.  Candy Crush, however, is a glorious time waster, replacing Angry Birds as claiming my down time.  I don't know what it is about lining up three or more colorful candies in a row to score points and get to the next level that fascinates me so, but there you have it.  I'm crushing on crushing.  My daughter started it, and now my husband is obsessed as well.  It's a sickness.  Picture this: Sunday evening, three adults in the living room, two on the couch, one in a recliner, the TV tuned to a classical music station.  Pachebel's "Canon in D" is playing softly in the background and nobody is looking at anyone else, nor are they exchanging words.  Each is looking at a small device in their hand, occasional exclamations of defeat and triumph escaping each one.  Even now, as I sit here writing this I see those rows of brightly colored candy in my mind's eye and wonder if I'll ever get off level 29 where I've been stuck for about 3 months now.  I can't remember what I did to waste time when I didn't have an electronic device.  Perhaps that pile of puzzle books collecting dust over there in the corner offers an answer to that question............

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Something Amusing (I hope!)

Here is another offering from my writing group exercises, I thought it was cute and it was well recieved by my fellow writers.  I chose "Henry the 8th" because it was the first song I thought of and seemed to lend itself to the prompt.  I hope you find it amusing!

Prompt: Start a scene with song lyrics and see where the words take you.

                                        Non-talkers Anonymous
          “I’m Henry the 8th I am, Henry the 8th I am I am.  I got married to the widow next door, she’s been married 7 times before; and every one was a Henry, she wouldn’t have a Willie or a Sam. I’m her 8th old man called Henry, Henry the 8th I am.”  The words echoed off the putty colored walls in the church basement meeting room as Henry took his seat.  The leader thanked Henry and the group welcomed him, taking in his tall thin frame, mousy brown shoulder length hair and goatee. “Now, who has something to share?” Steve, the moderator, prompted. A few moments passed before the thin dark haired woman to his left raised her hand.   Standing, Maria began, “The hills are alive with the sound of music, with songs they have sung for a thousand years…..”  Seeing another hand raised, Maria stopped and the short balding Mr. Peebles spoke up.  “We’ve got a gorilla for sale…”  “Ok,” Steve stopped Mr. Peebles when, without warning, Bruce interrupted with a raspy “Born in the USA, I was born in the USA!”  Everyone looked at each other for a few moments and Steve said, “I’m glad you’re all feeling more comfortable this week.  Does anyone else have anything to tell us?”  The round plastic clock on the wall behind Steve ticked a few beats and a light flickered overhead when Lee lifted his tall frame from his chair and tipped his ten gallon hat proclaiming, “I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free, and I won’t forget the men who died and gave that right to me…”  Suddenly catching the spirit of the conversation, the big boned, gray haired Ethel piped up with, “God bless America, land that I love,” in her rich contralto voice.  There was a momentary silence before Jon, in skin tight jeans and red flannel shirt piped in with “I’m a cowboy, on a steel horse I ride, I’m a cowboy and I’m wanted dead or alive,” prompting Taylor, the pretty blonde sitting next to him who was glaring at him to say, “We are never ever ever getting back together.”  At this point Steve stood and said, “Ok, I think that’s enough for this week.  You’re all making wonderful progress with speaking in a group, keep up the good work, and next time let’s try using our own words instead of song lyrics to communicate.” 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Thoughts on Sunday Morning

It’s raining today.  Not a torrential rain, just a gentle spring rain that’s keeping it chilly.  I was up before everyone else in the house as I usually am on the weekend and just sat quietly for a while listening to the soft drip and patter of the rain.  It was nice while it lasted.   Before too long my husband got up to go get the Sunday paper, coffee, and bagels before he had to head off to church, and my older daughter got up to get ready for work (Oh the life of a retail worker!).  Now she’s at work, and hubby’s at church, the princess is still in bed, the dishwasher and clothes washer are both humming away and the radio is playing songs from my youth.  Right now, at this moment, I feel peaceful and content—a pocket of serenity for me to draw on when things start getting crazy this week, as I know they will between one thing and another.  I wish for you reading this at least one pocket of serenity to draw on when your week gets filled with too much to do and not enough time to comfortably accomplish it all.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Life is Hard, Life is Weird, Life is Beautiful

         Life is such a mixture of things.  We have choices to make, obligations to meet, and the combination can make your head spin.  It can be overwhelming to realize that every major decision we make, and some of the minor ones as well, affect us for the rest of our lives in one way or another.  Some of our decisions affect other’s lives, our parents, children, co-workers and friends; even strangers to some extent.  Sometimes life is weird, people not acting their age, sometimes for the better, sometimes not.  We can find ourselves talking to people we’d never imagined even crossing paths with let alone having a conversation with, or even a friendship with.  We can find ourselves seemingly out of our element only to find that we feel comfortable with the experience, and seek out similar opportunities in the future.  Our world as we know it can be turned upside down and we not only survive, but we thrive doing things we once feared or perceived as impossible.  Occasionally we need to look back, see where we’ve been, observe where we are, and consider where we’re headed.  Those are the times that we can see that over all life is beautiful, each experience a different thread in the tapestry of our lives creating amazing patterns and color combinations unique to each of us.  As the weather turns warmer, take some time to sit outside and look around and contemplate your life in all its difficulty, weirdness, and beauty.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mothers Arms

Mothers arms are safe and warm
A place to rest from the storm
A place to laugh, a place to cry
A place of peace to wonder why
A place to feel your world’s ok
A place of comfort every day
When mothers’ arms are wrapped around
A nicer place cannot be found.
         I can still recall sitting on my mother’s lap, nestled in her arms as a small child.  It’s a feeling I miss when things get troubling in life; no other arms are quite the same.  I miss my mother, she’s been gone since 2005. I’m thankful that I have some wonderful memories to fall back on when I feel like I need that safe, restful place.
         My daughters are 23 & 20 and how I miss being able to scoop them up into my arms when they are upset, scared, or ill!  The next best thing to being in your mother’s arms is having your own child in your embrace.  Of course I can still hug them, but it isn’t the same as gathering them up and snuggling in the rocker, the little head resting over your heart as they calm down and relax into you.  What a wonderful thing it is to be able to do that for someone.  That, perhaps, is my favorite thing about motherhood—being able to comfort with such a simple thing as wrapping my arms around my children, making them feel safe without a word.
This Mothers’ Day hug your kids, or if you’re lucky enough to still have her near, embrace your mother; it will mean so much to you both.