Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tis the season

Rudy; Erin; stockings

Lunch out; the girls; big cookies

street scene; cold sky; ornament shopping

Friday, November 27, 2009

Another Thanksgiving day post

I got a free turkey a local store was giving away after point accumulation. It was frozen, though, and I was nervous (my sister once cooked a beautifully browned bird that was frozen on the inside--and I vowed that I would always buy fresh--but free is worth trying). I set it to thaw on Sunday and by Thursday morning a small portion still felt frozen. I stuck it in a cold water bath and wondered if anyone would notice if I served roast chicken instead ... it all turned out just fine and that frozen free bird was tastier than any fresh turkey breast I have ever gotten. I will never snub my nose at a frozen bird again (and I can't wait for sandwiches today!)

cheese and crackers, pumpkin dip
butternut bisque
apple, feta and pecans over mixed greens with raspberry vinaigrette
evil mashed potatoes with gravy (read loaded with butter, cream cheese and 1/2 & 1/2)
TURKEY with butter and thyme
sausage stuffing
coconut cake (made by my dad)
gingerbread cake
pumpkin ice cream
peppermint hot chocolate

Below: fresh flowers, misty day, Lanie and her artful gifts, Erin, table setting, gingerbread cake, pumpkin dip in a turkey dish, salad.

Memory shots: Lanie's hand reaching between the chairs to poke at my dad; Erin saying, "I'm thankful for you, Mama!"; my dad's cake; enormous mounds of homemade whipped cream in hot chocolate; candlelight everywhere; an almost full family picture. Fine day, fine day.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Putting Lanie to bed, tearful girl. Nightmares lately, ones she didn't want to talk about. Crying in my arms, terrible sobs. And then finally, "I dreamed I was standing with you at church, and then I closed my eyes and when I opened them, you were gone."

I held her close. I wanted to tell her it wasn't real, that I would never leave her someplace by herself, that dreams are only dreams. Instead I said, "It feels really sad when you feel left behind." Because something was really troubling her and maybe she just needed to feel it and let it go. (Although I can't say that logic has ever worked for me.)

"It's like you lose them. Even when someone dies, you lose them for a little while," this from a seven year old. So serious. With a touch of melancholy. She gets that from me.

She cried some more. And I realized this was her apprehension to going to bed in a bed by herself, without me. For her shadow-like help all day as I prepared the house for tomorrow's festivities. For her questions about babies and husbands and future, "Will you be happy for me if I have babies or don't? What if you are dead when I have my babies? Will you be happy in heaven for me?"

I held her close and comforted and kissed her. This sadness in her that just wanted a release, and I know that grief. But in my own weakness, I couldn't linger in mourning. And I found myself swimming to the shallow end.

"Dreams are dreams and not real--and I would never forget you someplace. I would always make sure you are safe," I said with a lilt of encouragement. I played a game with her about where I'd meet her in her dreams tonight. At the new ice cream place we discovered the other week. And what flavor ice cream I'd get. And she told me she'd get strawberry cheesecake flavor, "Because they really do have that flavor. And I'd give you the biggest taste for real. And if you liked mine better than yours, I'd let you have mine." But under that, don't leave me.

Bedtime prayers. More hugs and kisses. And I turned off the lights.

"There are so many shadows," she said. "More shadows than there ever were before."

"Do you want to sleep with the light on?" I asked. But she didn't.

Friday, November 13, 2009


A long day. Rainy. Grumbly. Out of sync and out of sorts. A petri dish for melancholy, discord. General yuck. Contagious. Looked forward to candlelight on the mantle and garlic bread that kept me coming back for more. Getting kids settled in bed, I wanted to check the time. The longest day. Had to be. Lanie came downstairs after brushing her teeth to say goodnight. She finds me in the office. She notices my books on the shelves.

"Do you have any kids books?" she asks. "Ones that kids can read?"

I handed her two: The Phantom Tollbooth and The Secret Horse (now out of print).

"I need three," she said.

I looked for more and found Someday by Alison McGhee. A quick and easy read, perfect for just before bed. Perfect end for the longest day.

"Would you like me to read it to you?" I asked. Would she let me? This reader who reads every library book to herself in morning stillness.

"Ok," she said and climbed into my lap. We admired the watercolor illustrations and I opened up the world.

"One day I counted your fingers and kissed each one," I began. Immediately, my eyes filled with tears and voice wavered. I didn't know how I could finish this book--this journey from baby to child and beyond. A mother's love simply breathed across a life. Always brings me to tears, but today was a first on page one. I forged on and paced myself, holding tears inside and taking an emotional step back.

As I closed the book, Lanie leaned closer to me and said quietly, "I love you, Mom."

"I love you, too," I said. And I kissed her head and rested my cheek on it.

"Please take me up to bed and tuck me in?"


Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Lanie is doing a timeline about herself to present to the first grade class. Today we went through a box of pictures I had that dated way back. Pictures of baby Lanie. Playing Play-doh and dolls. Buried under a mountain of stuffed animals. Her first tricycle. Eating ice cream at the beach. Finger painting. Glamor day at the mall. As big sister. Her first best friend. Dance recitals. So many memories flooding back.

"You sure took a lot of pictures of me," she said. Proud.

And then the flood of Erin pictures, baby days I hardly remembered. Surprised she was even a baby ... my memory so hazy. I showed Shane the pictures we decided to use. We smiled and reminisced about the time. One picture of me and the girls stood out.

"Your eyes are so blue, all of you," he said. "You look so happy."

My eyes watered. It didn't seem that long ago. It goes so fast.

"I wish we'd started a family sooner," he said. So we could have had more.

Me too.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Indian summer

I woke to a start at 5 a.m. today when I realized I'd left the ground beef defrosting on the counter all day--and all night. Ugh. Four pounds. Gone. There was no going back to sleep. At a more respectable hour, I got up and went out to the store to get more beef to make Jodie's Taco soup. Jeans, long-sleeved shirt, and fleece jacket, surprised when warm temperatures greeted me. A beautiful fall day that felt like the last of summer. I cooked banana chocolate chip breads, plum cakes, four loaves of bread and two batches of soup with windows open and children's laughter serenading.

Early sunset, candles on the mantle, all gathered at the table to eat. Afterward, the girls and I went to a friend's house to return a platter.

"I wish I could fly and reach the stars," Erin said. She wore her very favorite summer halter dress with the pink and yellow lemons. She marveled at the night sky and I wondered if she'd want to be an astronaut, like her dad did when he was a boy.

"I bet the moon is hard and the stars are soft," Lanie said. We held hands and walked down the dark country road. When Erin ran up ahead of us, we could no longer see her form and had to pick up our pace to keep track of her.

A sobering talk with my friend as life buzzed and boomed and ran around us. Talks of misdiagnoses and tragic early deaths ... "we can stop the treatments whenever you want," haunting words that tighten up my throat ... thinking of lives left behind ... preschoolers, husbands, grandchildren, friends. This life, such a vapor.

Back home to pack up a meal to deliver to a family facing a terminal diagnosis. Erin with her mouth full of bread.

"What are you eating?" I asked.

"Bread," she answered with muffled mouth. I looked at Shane.

"I put our bread away," he said.

"Show Mommy where you got the bread," I asked her and went into the kitchen to find this friend's loaf with a two-year-old hand-sized gouge removed from the top. Luckily, I made several loaves today.

Hugs and kisses. Pajama'd up. Thanks written and prayers whispered. This tune playing through my mind.

In this world you will have trouble, Jesus says. Finding comfort in the before and after.