Not Ready for the Chill

Photo: Joy is needle and thread and a little bit of time, resulting in a warm feeling of accomplishment when it all comes together. Yes, these guys will be “colored in” but not until after I get all of the elements of the pillow outlined. What a delightful distraction.

 

It was 28 degrees outside this morning. 28.

I’m not ready.

Cold means stuff and a different level of organization than I’ve had to have during these warm seasons because there are extra layers that need to be put on, and cold comes with tiny pieces akin to the lego sets I keep stepping on around here. Hats, gloves (“no, I don’t want the gloves, I want the mittens”), mittens (“He has the mittens, so I want mittens, too”), boots (“they are two small. My feet hurt!”) and, eventually, snow pants. Of course, boys have to zip up before walking out to the car (“How many times do I have to tell you to zip before you put on your gloves?” “They aren’t gloves! They’re mittens!”), so that takes longer. And did you know that it is recommended that kids take off their puffy coats and stuff before being strapped into their car seat? Yup. So, we struggle here in the house and then we struggle out there in the van.

Lordy.

The van and the new commute complicate things. The biggest thing that the van complicates is the preheating process: those big-ass side doors let all of the warm air out in a big, instant, giant whoosh ! I get it, the sliding doors are incredibly convenient, and I would even go so far as to say that I love them, but… I don’t know what I’m going to do about that. I think tomorrow we’re going to have a drill: open the door, get into the van and then press the button before the door opens all the way. That’s gonna be a disaster. I don’t even know why I’m bothering. Bet you they’re experts by the first below-zero day, though!

Here in the farmhouse, the radiators are back in service. I love their banging and clanging, their wonderful hissing. I’m very proud to say that we have yet to have our first oil delivery of the season! Our good fortune will not last much longer. I don’t even want to know what the first tank will cost us (last year, it was in the $400 range… maybe even closer to $500, but that was for filling it up when it was practically empty). Last year, the guy warned us that we are going to have to replace our tank soon. I’m dreading what he’s going to say this year. If we could get this tank to last us one more year, that would be idea. But, as you know, now that I’ve typed it, everything is going to go sideways at the first fill up!

I’m going to stop complaining. The change of the seasons is inevitable, the autumn turned out to be spectacularly beautiful, and my January child loves the snow. You know what he asked me for over the weekend? Ski lessons! Ski lessons, Dear Reader! Who asks for that!? Who wants to strap sticks to their legs and go down steep hills? Who?? And doesn’t he have enough, what with his very expensive guitar lessons? These children expect the world!

I told him I’d look into it. That was good enough for now, but he’ll be back again. There isn’t even snow on the ground, yet!

I know that this post has been about nothing, essentially, but I hope that it has distracted you from the insanity of our country at the moment. I’m exhausted from all of the work I’ve done today, but if I weren’t typing this post, I’d be debating with people on Facebook or refreshing the Washington Post over and over again to try to find the poll I like most that validates my desires and opinions. So if you, even for a moment, thought about a chilly New England morning instead of a candidate, or you imagined Ursa Major as the new skiing champion of the world, then I have done my job and this little nothing post is actually more powerful than I can appreciate. It certainly eased away the knot in the pit of my stomach, at least for a little while.

If you are American, please exercise your right and vote tomorrow. It’s obvious who I support, but I think it’s a sacred privilege to choose who you want to vote for. I won’t tell you to vote for my candidate, but I will hope and pray that you choose her.

No matter what, I’m baking bread on Wednesday morning and I’m writing a post. The sun will rise and the world will spin no matter the outcome.

Until Wednesday, Dear Reader, go vote and then take care.

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[Quiet Thoughts] Truth Cuts Through Noise

Photo: Things are going more slowly than I’d like, but I’m enjoying how the design is turning out.

 

I woke up this morning with my stomach in knots. The Husband and I voted last week, but that hasn’t eased any of my ill feelings. On top of everything else, everything else, the underlying feeling of dread and anxiety is causing me physical illness.

From corner to corner of my little suburban world, I’ve been huddling close with trusted people to lament about the tension. So many whispers of sickening dread, so many sighs, so many crossed arms. We keep giving each other the same instructions: keep the faith, engage in the positive, preach when possible, absolutely vote and urge others to do the same.

I confided to a friend that I’d asked The Husband to consider moving out of the country. I even floated the idea that I’d be ok with being a royal subject (yes, friends. I’m that panicked!).

My friend said something so utterly wise that I have to share:

“But nothing is going to change. Not the day-to-day, the people we see, the people we love. We’re still going to all be together, we’re still all going to be here working it out.”

Sure, we wouldn’t like what was happening around us, but at least we’d still be here, connected to the people we love and value, working together, doing the things that must be done.

As I have written in previous posts: every generation before us has thought they were living in the end times. Yet still, they carried on. Together. When the sun didn’t fall out of the sky, they kept doing what it takes to make the world go ’round. They did so with their neighbors, for better and for worse.

I’m going to get up on Wednesday morning and bake bread, because people will still be here and the people I love will be hungry. We’ll all be here together, no matter the outcome.

My Quiet Thoughts come from the glorious wisdom of the utterances said between friends. As we all look on in disgust at the wider state of things, seeing a big picture that scares us, even wakes us up at night, sometimes the focus on the beautifully mundane, the complex and yet intimate, can yield profound wisdom, even a little bit of hope.

My Quiet Thoughts also come from a truth that has been forgotten in all of this but hasn’t gone away, and is the single most important thing to remember: when the lawn signs go away, the commercial breaks back to blessed materialism, the landline no longer ringing with robocalls, and the vestiges of power peacefully passed from one person to another, we’ll all still be neighbors.We’ll be people working under the same sun and same flag. We’ll be neither angels nor demons, as we were never those things to begin with. We will go back to the people we’ve always been.

We are better than what we’ve convinced ourselves we are.

We’re better than this.

I’m not sure I’m going to sleep any better tonight. I’m exhausted, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be sleeping any better. But, I’m grateful for my friend and her words. I know that she didn’t know what she was doing when she said them. If we’re lucky, our teachers come from unexpected places, our best lessons at unexpected times.

Everyone keeps saying it’s just a few more days until it’s all over. That’s true, but it will feel like an eternity. Keep breathing, Dear Reader. Keep marching forward. And, in your debating and your terse conversations, remember who you’re speaking to: neither an angel, nor a demon, but your neighbor.

It is a Friday night in November, chilly and with extended darkness, sweetened by the smell of burning wood, noisy with the crunch of leaves falling and being tread upon. The farmhouse is warm, with the occasional breeze coming through ancient drafty windows. It smells of jerk chicken and pesto meatballs, all sent out of this house for a boy scouts meeting/potluck. It’s a time to take up a book or, for me, needle and thread, and let the world fall away for a time. It’ll all be there for you tomorrow, Dear Reader. We all will.

My first wish for you comes from the sweet intimacy of a silent room: nothing on, nothing beeping, nothing notifying you of anything. I wish you time with yourself and nothing else, listening to nothing more than your breath, your movement, the beating of your own beautiful heart. Take a little time to think your thoughts in peace, to wander in a place only you know and where only you can go. In your stillness, Dear Reader, I wish you peace. We all need a little bit of it right now. I wish you broth, savory and warm, full of goodness that nourishes. Bonus if you make it yourself this weekend. May I suggest one of these vegetarian options? I wish you the opportunity to make something with your hands. If you’re as anxious as I am, or if you’ve been hunched over words/computers/paper all week, let your creative energy come out in some sort of tangible way. When was the last time you took out an instrument to play? Or doodled? Or made something out of clay? Maybe collect some of the falling leaves and press them between some wax papers like when you were a kid. Finally, I wish you the opportunity to do something kind for someone else. Tell someone important that you love them. Hold the door for the person behind you. Sincerely ask someone how they are, how their day is going. Put into the world what you are yearning for–a little bit of warmth, softness, calm.

You are loved, respected and admired, Dear Reader. What you contribute to the world matters. Never forget that, even in the tense times.

Until Monday, Dear Reader, stay safe out there and take care.

 

Get Better Day

Photo: The pillow is slowly coming along. Did I tell you that the graphite seems to fade over time? Well, I have decided to go through and outline each element of the pillow so that way nothing fades away before I can get to it. It’s been nice watching things come to life. I think I have enough time to do this. I think.

 

Two little boys are home sick today. Minor, as usual, brought the pestilence first and Major caught it quickly after. We got an email from both schools last week about different serious illnesses: Hand Foot and Mouth disease in Minor’s school, Strep Throat in Major’s school. Lordy, Lordy, how we’re trying to avoid both! (HFM is much worst than Strep, though!) I got on my knees and prayed they’d both pass over this house. We don’t need any more major setbacks right now! So far, so good.

Sick days when I was a little girl were fun, but weird. Father’s theory was that you needed to “sweat out” a cold, so I always had to put on my warmest pajamas and be under ten blankets. Yes, there was unlimited Nickelodeon and usually fried chicken from my favorite bodega (if Father was staying home) or freshly made chicken soup (if Mom was staying home), but it came with the sweats. It also came with no movement–no getting up from the couch for anything other than a potty break.

My two boys? Well… let’s just say there has been a lot of movement. Major, especially, cannot accept that he must be on the couch and can’t go anywhere. Minor was perfectly fine with it yesterday! He relished being able to sit and watch movies all day (and yeah, he took a nap!). But with his brother around, there is this need to be moving, jumping, wrestling. No rest at all! So there has been movement in and out of the playroom, a yoga break, and some jumping on the living room ottoman. The good news? They seem to be on the mend. I think both of them are going to get out the door tomorrow. I might get my first morning to myself this week!

I will say that I’m not too anguished about being home. My in-laws (all of them) are coming up to visit next weekend and this house is not ready for it. Babies being home means I haven’t been in my car all day, which means I’ve been able to start the deep clean that this house really needs. It’s a two-week process: organizing and purging this week, spraying and scrubbing next week. I grind my teeth knowing that my mother-in-law is still going to have something nasty to say about me and my house, but I’m trying to put it out of my mind.

Honestly, I’m feeling anxious today. I know that a lot of that has to do with next Tuesday (Lord, save us all!), but it also has to do with next week. I’m feeling sensitive, still raw and even a little weepy. I know a lot of it comes from fatigue, too. I’m still not sleeping well, haven’t had a moment to stop and sleep in. I asked my husband to move this entire thing to my brother-in-law’s house because I just don’t feel like dealing with it, but it was a no-go. A non-starter, even. I just don’t know how I’m going to feel when my mother-in-law comes up in here talking whatever shit she’s going to talk next week. I’m not in the space to be patient or graceful. So the question is, will I fall to pieces or engulf in rage when she starts up? It is taking every ounce of me to hold myself and the function of things together. I don’t know if I’ll have enough strength to hold on and ignore her. I wish my husband would understand that. Emotional intelligence isn’t is strong-suit.

Can I speak more playfully about my husband for a moment? Can we talk about how spoiled he is? I was at Wegmans on Monday and they had gorgeous wild catfish in the case. I had to have it, amending my whole week’s menu to make room for po’boys tomorrow, one of The Husband’s favorites. I told him about it when he got home. He smiled the way men smile when they get such news, but then he got a mischievous look on this face: “but can I get a remoulade on it, you think?”

“A remoulade!? Boy, you been watchin’ too much Chopped!”

“I’m just kidding!”

He wasn’t kidding. He knew exactly what he was doing.

So, of course I looked up how to make a remoulade! I went looking for one in my New Orleans cookbook, but there wasn’t one in there. Emeril has one, and so does Serious Eats. I’ll probably go with Serious Eats, but we’ll see. If any of ya’ll have a great recipe, please send it my way before I hit the grocery store tomorrow!  I’ve gotta go out and get some coleslaw and stuff!

Spoiled, spoiled! He’s lucky it looks pretty simple!

Happy Wednesday, Dear Reader. I hope you are healthy and warm. I can’t believe it is mid-week already. Make sure you finish out the week strong, yeah?

See you Friday for Quiet Thoughts.

[Short Post] Halloween is NOT Designed for Mommies

 

I have a very important question to ask. It’s very, very important.

Why can’t Halloween be the last Friday of October?

I’m just sayin’.

Halloween is the worst! It’s a marathon of sprints. Just one thing after another after another and then the hike around the neighborhood!

But you don’t care about my whining.

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Yeah, yeah… they are cute. Nana (my mom) supplied the costumes, which I’m really grateful for.

The week just goes downhill from here. I swear the boys are never in school. School conferences are killing me! Half-days, too! Please, Lord, someone educate the babies!

Real, serious post on Wednesday, for sure. Until then, stay warm and take care.

[Quiet Thoughts] Prepare the Way

Photo: Holiday crafting is in full effect, ya’ll! Thanks to my sister’s supreme talent, I was able to get a few drawings of the boys in fun action poses. Graphite transfer paper is a blessing and a curse: it fades over time. I didn’t realize that when I transferred the full design to the fabric. *sigh* so I’ve had to reinforce a few times already! I’m rushing to get all the outlining work done so I can color without worry of fading!

 

The farmers of MetroWest are preparing their fields for winter. No matter which way we go, what errand the boys and I run to, there is a field along the way. We’ve marveled at the quick harvest, looked closely for the veggies left behind and, of course, the boys have really enjoyed the heavy machinery that has come out to turn over the soil. While some fields are sort of gray and depleted, others are rich and dark, seemingly ready for another planting right away. Geese passing through on their way to warmer destinations can be seen pecking away at the dregs, delighting in a free meal without worry. While I have enjoyed the intellectual exercise of carefully observing the process, discovering things that I have not before (and continually growing a healthy respect for the people who grow our food for a living), I have a sense of sadness–here we are, the cold season. The longest, most miserable time of the year. Gone are the long days and the sunshine and the warmth. I’m not ready. I’m never ready.

It’s been cold this week, too. I broke out my favorite peacoat, took out the boys’ puffy coats, mittens, and hats. Had to preheat the van one morning (and set it to 85 degrees with glee!), had to go digging for long-sleeved shirts. The marigolds survived the first hard freeze of the season (down to the twenties), while the rest of the garden was decimated. I broke out the rakes after school one afternoon and made four huge piles of leaves. There is plenty of yard left to cover.

I found myself relishing it, actually; the preparation for the change. I don’t want winter, but I’m delighted to be busy with it. The getting ready is fun, the logistics of change strangely bring me joy.  Maybe because, while working with my hands and body to change the house over to things, my mind has been free to do it’s thinking, it’s concluding.

I decided I’m not going to do NaNo next month.

I decided I might not write at all this winter.

Like the fields all around me, I’m going to rest. I’m going to feed my brain with books, and a few webinars about blogging and writing, and I’m joining a Mastermind ground and I’m searching for a local writing group. But I’m not going to force myself to produce. Not for a season. I’m going to let my mind lay fallow.

Because I don’t have the bandwidth and I’ve hit a space where I need to do some learning before I can do any improving.

I contemplated stepping away from the blog, too.

“Are you getting a little depressed or are you honestly rerouting your energy and focus?” The Husband asked me when I spoke to him about this. He asks excellent questions.

The urge to stop blogging is the tug of depression. It would be so easy to turn this computer off, so easy to leave the words behind, to disrupt the routine, to have no obligations to myself at all. Lord, how lovely it would be to surrender to it. It paws at me every single morning and keeps me in bed 40 minutes longer than I should. I haven’t gotten up before 6:30 any day since Grandy passed. It takes an incredible effort to get my two feet on the floor. Once they’re there, I’m fine… but those moments between my waking and my moving are the most exhausting of my day.

Before you start to worry, I’m not giving up and I’m not walking away from the blog. Thanks to freelancing, I was able to purchase some really great resources to help me learn and grow, and I’m sure that there will be some experimenting happening in this space over the winter months. The Husband has taken on the responsibility of holding me to the promise: not to give up, to publish my two complete manuscripts, to learn and grow, to emerge in the Spring ready to produce.

But, in order to do that, I’ve got to prepare the way. I have to rediscover the purpose of the pursuit. I may even need to rediscover what I’m pursuing to begin with.

It’s good to let go, and a little scary. Doubt loves to tease: “Are you kidding yourself? This is what quitting looks like!”

I’m not listening. I know better.

There is nothing wrong with resting, breathing, replenishing. I have to do it. I have actually, finally, reached my capacity.

My dear, Dear Reader, it’s Friday. Another rainy one, actually, with a cold wind that cuts through the flimsy stuff made for the 60 degree days. Halloween (and all that must be done) looms large over my weekend but, tomorrow at least, I don’t have to think about it. Like so many Fridays that have come before, I have wishes for you. I wish you a first evening under your good blanket. You know the one: the one you break out for the real cold, to keep out the real chill of the long season. I wish you that pleasure of taking it out of the closet, shaking it out, giving it a good smell, wrapping it around you and feeling its loving warmth. I hope that you break open a new book to mark the occasion, wrapping yourself up and falling away. Far, far away. I wish you the joy of some good tomato basil soup, extra bonus points if you make it yourself, which you totally can. Bonus points if you have an excellent grilled cheese sandwich to dip in it. I wish you the crackle of a fire or the tapping of the rain on your window, any excuse to stop and listen, to enjoy and relax. I wish for you the permission you need to stop and breathe, Dear Reader. It’s a gift. Finally, as ever, I wish you a loving embrace and the wonderful feeling that comes when someone tells you they love you with full heart and sincerity. A lover, a relative, a friend… those words are powerful, they matter, and they should be said. Be sure to say the words out loud this weekend: to yourself (first) and to someone else.

I’m grateful for your presence, Dear Reader. Thank you for another great week.

Until Monday, take care.

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What I Totally Didn’t Need

Photo: My absolute favorite Fall treat, by far, is pan-roasted pumpkin seeds. Olive oil, salt and pepper, clean pumpkin seeds and a cast iron skillet is all it takes to make this awesome, awesome snack. Deciding to have pumpkin-baked oatmeal this morning, the bonus was these seeds to snack on all day! Yay Fall!

 

The two little boys think it is hilarious to wrestle in the living room. Still a little overwhelmed, I’ve been letting the boys veg out to Nick Jr while I make dinner. Major, especially, is pretty grateful for the opportunity to decompress. Minor, on the other hand, is jazzed because big brother is home. All he wants to do is play.

So, inevitably, one child crosses the room to jump on the other and the match is on! I’m whisking something in a skillet and I hear the laughter, followed shortly by shrieks of joy, followed very shortly after by shrieks of pain and anger. Next thing I know, I’m stepping into the living room to see one shoving the other (at best) or one punching the other (at worst).

Every night for the last handful of nights, I’ve made it clear: “We’re not wrestling and if you want to play rough and noisy, go to the playroom, please!”

They say, “ok,” and then they go to the playroom. Temporarily. It never takes more than 10 minutes for them to return to the living room, shrieking and jumping and being ridiculous.

Well, somewhere around 6:30 yesterday, I’d had it. “Mommy shouldn’t have to repeat the same three sentences over and over and over again! Why does it have to be this way every night!?”

They shrugged and said nothing.

“You say you don’t like it when I yell at you! But then you do what I ask you not to do multiple times a day!”

Tears from the babies. Little balled fists. Mean Mommy… I’m always the mean one.

Finally, Major points a little precious finger at me. “Well, you make me sad all the time! You are the reason why I’m angry and sad!”

Wow… really? “How am I making you angry by asking you over and over again not to do something? I didn’t say that you can’t be noisy when you play. I’m just asking that you be noisy in the playroom, the room that is dedicated just to you and your stuff!”

“Well, you’re being mean! And you’re yelling! And I don’t like it when you yell! You’re mean, and you are why I’m sad and mad all the time.”

Minor wasn’t totally complicit with this. Matter of fact, he wandered away, making his way to the dinner table. Major dropped his bombs and then jutted out his cleft chin at me. “Can I have some dinner now?”

“If you are going to say those bold statements to me, then you need to back them up. You need to prove what you’ve said. Tell me, was I mean when I drove you to school this morning?”

“No.”

“When I did your laundry?”

“No.”

I went through the entire list of things I’d done for that child, just on that day, a good eight direct services I’d done for that child. He said I wasn’t mean when I was doing those things.

“But when I ask you, for the fifth time tonight, to be in the playroom instead of wrestling and fighting in the living room, and I yell because I’m frustrated, I’m being mean?”

“Yes. And I’m mad and I’m sad all the time.”

I don’t know why it hurt my feelings so much. He’s 5 and we know that he has had the ability to weaponize his language for a while now. Yet still, it hurt. Maybe because it’s so freaking unfair–Motherhood is so damn thankless. Especially now as the three men in my life enjoy the fruits of all my labors while simultaneously enjoying their own accomplishments: crafted lunches every morning, lots of carting around to different activities, lots of parties and playdates, oh, and not to mention my new gig as Classroom Parent in Major’s class (“I’m planning and coordinating the big Halloween party for your class on Monday! But I’m still mean!?” “Yes.”). It’s an unnamable (yet challenging) feeling watching them thrive thanks to your hard work, as you struggle to find any sort of traction in your own projects and pursuits (why yes, I did get another literary rejection yesterday afternoon).

Anyway, I say all this to say, this is totally not what I need right now.

And yeah, I brought it on myself. I should have stopped asking questions. He’d firmly stated his position and there wasn’t anything I was going to do to change it. He’s five. He’s stubborn as hell. And yeah, he’s a little bit mean. I should have walked away from him. It was my ego that got in the way–I just wanted to be right. I wanted him to know why he was laying blame at the wrong feet.

The Husband scolded them, eventually put them to bed, gave me a kiss on the forehead. “Tomorrow will be a better day,” he reminded me. He was right, of course. Both boys apologized this morning. We were off to the races, as ever.

This, too, shall pass. All of it.

See you Friday for Quiet Thoughts, Dear Reader. Stay safe and warm out there.

Onward! A New Week Dawns!

Photo: I like this photo because it represents exactly where my brain is right now. Where to look? Where to go? What to focus on? So many possibilities, so many opportunities… and yet, there is something a bit overwhelming about it all.

 

So, NaNoWriMo starts November 1st? Damn. Seriously? Can’t catch a damn break up in here.

It was my husband who reminded me. He was like, “so, what are you doing next month? We going for Meadowlark III?”

The “we” in that was mighty funny. I’m grateful that my husband is my biggest fan. But also, it was like, oh crap! I’ve got nothing!

Well, not nothing… I have two viable ideas that I’d like to explore. One of them is, indeed, the third installment of the novella series that I usually work on for NaNo. The other is a start of a different series, still likely novella-length. But maybe novel-length? I’d better decide pretty quickly!

But ideas aren’t outlines, and I need an outline to write with any sort of coherence. I know about the phenomenon of other writers sitting in front of the blank screen and following the words where they lead, but I can’t handle that. It’s chaotic and makes me anxious. Mostly, it results in rubbish.

But can I outline a story worth telling in little over a week? Welp, that’s the great and grand question of the week. No coffees, no meetings, no chatting and driving around MetroWest with little purpose. I’ve dedicated the entire week to get ready.

In so doing, I’m putting this month behind me. I woke up on Sunday, put on my favorite outfit, and went to church with a smile on. I decided to dedicate myself to feelings other than pain or guilt. It was a difficult thing at first, but stepping out into the sunshine and then stepping into a community that I increasingly find place, meaning and purpose in really, really helped. I woke up this morning feeling less dread, more focused. I broke out my notebook and really got to work. Coffee had full taste again. Full color is coming back to my world.  It felt great, Dear Reader. It really did.

I won’t try to fool myself into thinking I’m back 100%. There is still pain and a void that feels insurmountable. I’m still playing catch-up, but most of the tasks are done. I refuse to step into November feeling overwhelmed by sorrow. I want to start November 1st with a powerful story to tell.

So, I’m actually going to step away from here and get on Evernote to continue my brainstorming. I have to continue researching the lives of private/personal chefs and what they do. I also have some reading to do tonight–I bought a training to help me with this whole querying thing. I am not going to lie, this thing with trying to find an agent and get published the old-fashioned way causes me anxiety and a little bit of anger. There is something archaic about it, and it’s certainly an arduous process. I’m trying to decide if it’s worth it. I really hope that this exercise in patience and hard work will be rewarded!

It’s Monday night and it feels like we’re off to a great start, Dear Reader. I hope that the momentum of a productive day will carry you all the way through to Friday. I promise to find something real and substantial to write about, and to keep my streak going: no fail posts this week. Can’t get lazy. Gotta get back into it.

Until Wednesday, take care.