Sunday, December 30, 2007

Driving At Night Photography


There is something about night driving and photography that I absolutely love. This was taken along Route 2 towards the western part of Massachusetts.

Friday, December 28, 2007

I took a bath today

I've had this dream where I'm in the shower and I slip down into the hot water that collects in the tub and soak for hours like a tea bag. Usually the dream is broken by children screaming or an insistent knock on the door for immediate bathroom use NOW.

This Christmas a very thoughtful cousin gave me a basket of self help items: bottle of wine, foot cream, fruit, a ball of bath salts. When I saw the salts I remembered my dream and asked myself, "When?"

Well I saw those salts today and said, "Now."

It was as lovely as my dreams.

I was definitely prunish upon exiting.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

What the World Needs Now...

I was under Sears house arrest today, some time between 8 to 5 the repair man would be here. All afternoon war raged within these walls. I played arbiter all afternoon. Stressing the importance of tolerance and respect. Sending those that lashed out to a neutral corner in their bedroom. Around 5 o'clock PM, I glanced at my email, and heard from a writer friend he had just finished his day's work. When I visited the link I was saddened and shocked to find out what had transpired today. Why is it the lessons we stress at home are the same lessons that the world as a whole could embrace as well? Didn't these people pay attention to their parents when they were growing up?

In the quiet of the day

I'm painting. Actually repairing a paint job that has laid fallow for months. But with the girls plugged into the electronic sitter, and the house quiet, I've opted to paint. (Not write... despite the looming deadline.)

This job has been hanging over my head for months, truly. And now that I'm taking my time and having no real expectations of finishing, the end is in sight. Probably not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday soon the addition will be finished. It's only taken three years. Speedy is not my middle name. But on the other hand, no one else was rushing the paint can either.

In my defense of not writing, while painting in the quiet, I have plenty of time to think about what I should be writing. That will get done too; all in good time.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Devil Is In the Details

This year two of my three are selling Girl Scout cookies. Officially, the sale starts January 3rd, but over the Christmas holiday the budding saleswomen are allowed to sell to family and friends. Unfortunately, in this house, whether it is Girl Scout cookies, or a schoolwide fundraiser, having two motivated sellers, going for selling incentives, pushing two separate order forms, is a nightmare.

Nana placed the first order with my Junior. The world was happy. This being her first year selling, the Brownie was none the wiser. Even so, when we were getting ready to visit with our Aunts, I said to the Brownie, "Go get your order form." The Junior heard me.

The wail, "What if she orders five boxes, Nana only ordered four?"

Knowing this was coming I tried to dissuade her worries. "It will all even out. Don't worry."

She didn't hear me, or maybe my advanced college French lessons kicked in and I was speaking in a foreign language, for the wailing escalated. "She's going to sell more than me. I want to take my order form."

Still at def-calm 2 I tried again -- this time in simple English, "Don't worry. Daddy and I haven't placed our order yet." We are notorious for ordering five or more cases... Being the past cookie mom it was my job to round the troop order to whole cases. So we'd wait to place our order until the end.

Still not hearing, she shoved the order form into my face, and demanded. "Write your order now."

I countered, now at def-calm 4, "Go see your father. He'll settle this."

And he did, just as Solomon settled the fighting over the baby. Each order will be split down the middle. Of course, this record nightmare falls in my lap with an unshakably heavy sigh: A monster ordering mess of mammoth proportion.

During the visit no orders were taken, no boxes divided right down to the crumb or calorie. The girls completely forgot to ask their Aunts about cookies. No real loss; as we can always contact them by phone or email. But in the quiet, right before bedtime and Santa I told my Junior, "You know with these cookies, the devil is in the details."

"You are so worried that the Brownie might sell one cookie more than you, that you forgot that your father and I are keeping an eye on your cookie goal. We've never let you miss it in the past, and wouldn't let you miss it now."

And as I kissed her goodnight and shut off the light I was thinking about that phrase, "The devil is in the details." Usually reserved for implementing a highly structured plan, it really does apply to everyday life, whether your selling cookies or not.

Psssssttt..... Wanna buy some girl scout cookies?

Monday, December 24, 2007

In Midnight Silence


At our church my middle one sings the introduction for the Christmas carol, In Midnight Silence. It just wouldn't be Christmas without hearing her sing. And when she sings I picture that little stable, at midnight, in silence.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Lights!

Twas the Night Before...



Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house.
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
Our buckets were stacked in the sugar shack with care.
With snow on the eaves, I prayed the season soon would be here.

The girls all tucked, snug in their beds,
where visions of maple syrup and pancakes danced in their heads.
And papa resting easy, while I counted taps
We'd just settled down with a liquid night cap.

When out by the sugar shack there rose such a cladder,
I ran out to the backyard to see what was the matter.
Away to the fence, I flew like a flash
Lifted the latch, to only slip with a crash.

Above me, the moon shining on the new-fallen snow
Reminded me of the clear luster of sap, at the peak of the flow
When what to my wondering eye should I spy
Burr Morse carrying a maple cream pie.

He was weathered and cheerful, a right jolly old soul
And I smiled when I saw him. I'd read his book,
after all.
A wink of his eye, and a twist of his head,
Soon gave be to known, I had nothing to dread.

That man is a sugarmaker
A master, a magician
Evaporating sap down to syrup
Sugar on snow? Oh, just a dollop!

"Oh, ptcakes my girl, there's much more than sugarmaking!"
"Mr. Morse..."
"Call me Burr..."
"I'm sincerely begging to differ."

"It's the snow, the clear air, the early morning boils.
It's the sweet smell of maple, that makes my heart unroil."
"ptcakes, I've been a sugarmaker for many a year.
Since knee high to the pan, I know how you feel."

"Then you know, that come fall, of the weekly countdown.
The checking of buckets, the sorting of lids
Setting up the burner and filling the tanks."

"Oh, yes... I do know... (even though we now use tubing.)
And I'd invite you visit, To see our operation...
And perhaps even work it.
But I know, that you know, when the sap starts to run
There are no travel trips for fun or for sun."

But now it's Christmas, the daytime temps below freezing.
With buckets and taps, next to snow shoes and mudboots.
My trees are all sleeping.

So I've come down to visit and bring you this pie.
"Oh Mr. Morse, Burr, you're one heck of a guy!"

Then with a tip of his hat, and a wave of a mitten
he bade his goodbyes, quiet as a kitten.
But I heard him exclaim, as he drove North, out of sight,
"Happy Sugaring Season to all, and to all a good night."

Friday, December 21, 2007

Part 72

The days before Christmas were growing short. Sam had all the lights, inside and outside on timers. When she trod off to bed the house was lit, and when she woke up the lights greeted her. Their tree decorated with so many stories that it would not have surprised Charlotte if it collapsed. Sometimes during her early morning insomnia she'd hit the override switch for the tree, wrap herself up on the couch and sit and gaze at the tree. Comfortable she walked down memory lane, meandering from ornament to ornament.

This year most of the decorating was done in 15 minute spurts by the girls between their activities. The result was, except for the obvious Barbie territories, the ornaments were hung with no rhythm or organization. Charlotte spotted the Texas boot hanging right next to her grandmother's bell; the space reserved for Sam's mother's bear. Just where was the bear? It had to be up there. All 47 empty ornament boxes littered the living room. She hated the mess, the clutter. Later, she'd truck them up to the attic. Empty or full they couldn't possibly weigh more than a cup of coffee.

She reached under the blanket and beneath her flannel shirt and stroked her belly. She felt the roundness of a twenty pound pumpkin, and couldn't recall being so big this early with the other three. People she knew only casually were starting to notice.

The bagger of her groceries and the dry cleaner both shot her piercing looks over the past week. Granted she generally wore very comfortable over-sized clothes, but hadn't they noticed? It was obvious the bagger wanted to say something. Maybe it was when Lovie knocked over the entire display of mixed nuts that distracted him. Picturing what had to be thousands of nuts cascading to the floor made Charlotte laugh. It was an accident, of course. Lovie just wanted to see if her favorite nut to crack, the pecans were there. So standing on tip toe she grabbed the side of the display to raise her chin above the display. It was the roar that caught Charlotte's attention. She looked up from the parade of groceries on the cashiers belt, to watch her daughter being buried ankle deep in nuts. Thankfully the store manager didn't demand payment.

Returning back to the tree, Charlotte decided she'd have to hang an empty pecan shell as an ornament. One more story wouldn't topple the thing. And it was one she truly wanted to remember.

(26722)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Miracle of Mom

Like the military, in this house there is a don't ask, don't tell policy.

It is not in my job description to:
set the table
clear the table
stack or empty the dishwasher.

Those jobs have been reassigned to give Mom a hand. And in principle, that might work.

The other night, after clearing the gutters, magically whipping up a dinner, whisking the little ones off to play practice and attending the older one's winter concert, I returned home to stacked dirty dishes on the counters and sink. My heart sunk. Nine o'clock at night and the kitchen was still a mess.

Whose job is it? Well the little ones have been tasked with dish detail. And I knew they had been in the kitchen since being returned from their play practice at 7. There were popcorn dishes stacked on top of the dinner plates.

The ultimate reason for the back up -- the dishwasher was loaded with clean dishes. "I can't put them in the dishwasher!" is the usual lament. Again, not my job -- but we were running out of silverware so I ran a load, set the table for dinner while cooking, while everyone else was relaxing from their tough days at school or on a ladder. And now hours later, this.

I walked away. As disgusting as that sounds, and in real life it is, I left it all. I've left it all in the past. I've left it all until we've run out of dishes, or space for me to cook. Putting a box of cereal on the table and the few mismatched bowls and no spoons for dinner. "Sorry," I start my excuse. "There are no clean dishes." Or, "There was no space for me to cook." And it's by some miracle those words open their eyes to the mess that has consumed the kitchen. Panic and raised voices ensue. Honestly, I don't know what is worse the mess or the panic.

But what usually happens is, in the morning, after the man goes to work and before the children rise from their beds, I clean the kitchen. I unload the dishwasher. In reality it takes no time at all. Reload the dishwasher, wash the counter tops, and start the pans soaking. After all cleaning up pans after a night with food stuck on them is no picnic.

So as the sun rises, we have, what I've come to call, "The Miracle of Mom." No one asks. No one tells.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Pleco


In the movie Finding Nemo, it's touted that fish have feelings. And despite it being a children's movie, and a cartoon to boot, it's true.

Pleco, our adopted Plecostomus, is a very sensitive soul. He doesn't like it when the tank is being cleaned or rearranged. How do we know? His coloration changes to a yellow blotchy. At first, I thought I was seeing things. But as soon as the tank was put back together, he was back to his dark mottled self.

Damn Ice Dams!

There are always two sides to every story, every conflict, every situation. With all this weather we've been having, we had ice. Followed by water -- dripping from the outside of the house to the inside. It was interesting, in an oriental sort of way. Being 47 and married to a homeowner, it was a new thing for me. I felt assaulted. I took the water seepage personally. I didn't want to call someone else to fix it. I wanted to do it myself.

So with the man on one side of the house, and me, with my trusty hat, boots, and mittens, on the other we cleared the gutters. It was a beautiful day to be twenty feet up. The sun was out. There was no wind. The children were in school. And except for the hammering and chiseling of ice and frozen leaves, it was peaceful.

I was on the interesting side of the house. I got to watch the numerous deliveries to the neighborhood package store. Who knew that eight full-size trucks delivered their liquid wares there in a four hour stretch? Certainly I didn't. Must have a great business going.

I developed a great system for clearing gutters in winter. First put down a thick layer of eco friendly ice melt. Fluff it in among the frozen leaves. Pour on hot tap water. Let it sit. Then take the garden trowel and hammer it along the base of the ice. With this technique I was able to free large sections of gutter gunk at a time.

It was quite satisfying to be able to clear the gutters and save the house. And as long as the man is willing to move the ladder along the eaves for me, I'll clear the gutters anytime. Well, as long as the sun is out, there is no wind and the children are in school.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

When the raging storm hits

I need to remember this poem.

Middleone

nice, kind, caving

Who wishes to know how to ride a motorcycle
Who dreams of peace on earth
Who wants to learn how to crochet
Who wonders about mealworms
Who needs a family
Who fears snakes and spiders
Who likes to draw
Who believes in herself
Who loves dogs

I found this while cleaning through the piles of papers near my computer.

On the back was the Littleone's Christmas wish list (I've translated)

1. A nutcracker that cracks nuts
2. The egg in Harry Potter necklace
3. A Barbie ornament that has a doll dressed up
4. The whole collection of Littlest Pet Shop
5. The Golden Compass
6. My Little Pony
7. My sister not bothering me

For many reasons this piece of paper is a keeper.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Entitlement

It was 8:45 this morning and we were all heading out to drive the oldest to indoor track practice. The car was encased in ice. There was only 15 minutes between us and being late. So what did the lovelies do? They begged me to open their doors, remember they were iced and quickly jumped and waited while I scraped the car off. Halfway done with steam pouring out my ears, I opened my door. The heat of the defrost slapped me in the face as I said, "You should feel ashamed that I'm out here rushing around for you, and YOU are sitting toasty in this Rig."

No response. They w ere happy to take the lashing, knowing full well it would end there. But it won't.

When I am busy knitting, or busy reading, or busy painting my toenails -- then I am too busy for whatever.

The little ones got a taste of this. While out playing today they dumped a huge amount of snow back down on the driveway. The result, we cut a playdate short so they could reshovel together. I said, "You have 45 minutes. If it's not done you both go to bed early for the rest of the week and no TV until the new year." Harsh? Maybe, but they don't hear me otherwise.

There was complaining, wailing and whining -- but in the end the job looked great.

Thankfully.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Part 71

Charlotte woke to the smells of bacon and coffee. Rolling over her first thoughts were, "There is a God." For no matter what was going on in her life, breakfast was her favorite meal; especially when it involved bacon and coffee. As she sat up to gather her robe to go downstairs, she noticed a note propped up the nightstand.

Charlotte,

Thank you for intervening. I wasn't drinking, but I couldn't look away.

Love,
Sam

Maybe there was hope, too.

As she eased herself down the stairs, Charlotte overheard Sam and Jenny.

"Watch the eggs, sweetheart," he was instructing. "They're starting to stick."

Not acknowledging her father's warning Jenny replied, "Do you think Nana will get to see the new baby?"

"I don't know. Mommy still has 4 more months until the baby is born. Some days Nana looks great, energetic, and others..." Sam's voice trailed off.

"What will Grandpa do after she's gone?"

Charlotte, not wanting to interrupt sat down on bottom step and listened.

"I don't know. But he's welcome to stay with us."

Jenny's voice squealed, "Do you think he will?"

The coffeemaker beeped, Charlotte thought its noise created a sort of pregnant pause, the pause right before a cliff hanger.

"I hope he does. I can't imagine traveling about alone would be much fun for him."

The toaster popped. "I'll ask him!" offered Jenny.

Without actually seeing him Charlotte knew her husband was smirking from ear to ear. He was so proud of his daughters and their thoughtfulness, when they weren't trying to kill each other. "You just do that. Tell him he always has a space here and here."

Here and here; Charlotte was puzzled. Here being the house but here being where else. She'd have to ask him when they were alone. Just then the light charge of dog barreling down the steps behind her filled the house. Unable to rise in time to give them the full step, Charlotte squeezed over to the wall, figuring the dogs would run past to investigate the food smells. She was wrong.

Gussie and Kaylie came to a screeching halt on the step above her. Where they started to kick her ears and neck.

"Yuck! You're a butt licker!" She tried to get away from them, but they had squished her to the wall. "Help! I'm being kissed by the butt lickers!"

Sam and Jenny charged in from the kitchen, while Lovie and Sarah flew in from upstairs. No one went to help her. They were all overcome with fits of laughter. "They love you," gushed Sarah.

"Mom, you look like a dog whisperer. They love you," squealed Lovie. "Can they lick me now."

Blocking her face from the attack she said, "No, these dogs lick their butts. I don't want them licking me or you." She looked to her husband for help, "Sam?"

Not taking a step closer to his wife, he shook his head and started to walk away, "you're the one that wanted a dog."

"A dog, not two..."

Sam stopped. "So you want me to take him back."

The house went dead silent. Even the dogs stopped. Did they really know what was being said?

"No Gussie and Kaylie both stay." They'd only been there a short while, but she could remember the house without them.

(26303)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

My Winter Love Affairs - Sweet Winter Love Affairs

It has happened every winter for the past 11 years. The air turns cold, the wind starts to whip, and I turn to those that offer me comfort and warmth. I admit it, I don't like being left out in the cold. So I willing engage in these affairs. Where nothing comes between me and my loves. It's mutual, for as much as they pamper me, I keep track of them. Insuring that they, too, are accounted for, warm, safe and dry; them being my hat, mittens and boots.

My mittens have seen the worst of it; developing a hole in the right warmer a few years ago. I let it go for a year. Believing I'd discard these old mittens and seek out the new. There were no others to be found. All were subpar. So a vinyl patch sewn with upholstery thread and love restored them. Showing that all can be made almost new again.

My boots are bedroom slippers for the outdoors. From the moment I first slipped my tired old dogs in those puppies, it's been love. Never have they let my toes grow wet or cold. While on the other hand, after wearing them shopping for what seems like an entire day, never do my feet feel overheated or heavily burdened. They have given me eleven years of faithful toe to knee climate controlled comfort.

And my hat -- purchased at REI again some eleven years ago, sits so low on my head, it rests upon the top of my glasses. Not the most attractive hat I've ever seen, but I wouldn't leave this home in winter without it. (And on particularly cold days, I've been known to wear it inside the house as well.) People driving by, as I take my winter morning walks, will stop to say hi. Saying, "I recognized your hat." Now that is saying something.

My winter loves, may I never have to face winter without them.

Friday, December 14, 2007

"You clean up well"

I heard that quote this past weekend, at our Community Christmas concert. I was the MC, the host, the person whose knees got to shake at the microphone. I wore a dress, shoes with heels and the pantyhose that tie one to the other. It's not normal for me to clean up in that way. I'd much rather clean up with a shovel.

This morning we were out a smidgen after 4. There was no wind, the air was crisp, and quiet. Only the soft scrape of shovels hitting pavement and the odd car traveling by broke the silence. It reminded me of maple sugaring. Even with the season some two and a half months away, I find myself delighting in the fact that we are sugarmakers. And that this snow is the first soft cold blank that will usher in another season of bliss. Already I'm looking forward to nights of lying awake, waiting for 3 or 4 AM to start boiling sap into syrup.

Why do we do it? It certainly is easier to take a road trip to find a local commercial sugarshack in Natick, or further a field in the Berkshires. And it's even easier to go to Whole Foods to pick up a gallon of Vermont, New Hampshire, Canadian, or New York best. Why? It's the question that plagues me every Fall into Spring. It's the question I ponder with each thankful shovel full of snow I clear off our driveway. Thankful? Yes, for without winter there can be no sugaring.

It's in my bones, and courses through me like no passion ever has. It's being out in the cold and quiet. It's the sweet maple smell that freshens the air, just as the sun is licking the tops of the barren trees. It's the routine of checking the buckets. Seeing what nature has to offer us settlers. It's knowing that a lost art has been found.

So, I clean up well. I take my trusty "old lady" shovel with it's back saving bent handle and I gladly clear the driveway and stairs. Listening to the quiet. Enjoying the crisp early morning air, and comforted in the fact that in 12 weeks all this cold and snow will bring forth the sweet syrup of a life well lived.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Search for a Recipe

I have standard Christmas recipes that I make every year: Kahlua Fudge, Fruitcakes, Cranberry Bread, Truffles, and Sweet and Salty Nuts. This morning I searched high and low for the nut recipe. I had every single Woman's Christmas magazine I own out on the table. For that's all I knew; the recipe is in a magazine.

Finally I found it -- hours later, in Better Homes and Gardens December 2004.

Here is it:
Sweet and Salty Nuts

Preheat oven 325

Butter - 2 Tbs
1 lb pecan or walnut halves
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light-colored corn syrup
Coarse sea salt - 1 Tbs
Freshly ground black pepper -- about 1/2 tsp
Coarse Sugar

1. Generously butter a cookie sheet.
2. In large bowl stir together nuts granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt and pepper until well combined.
3. Spread in prepared pan.
4. Bake for 25 minutes; stirring once or twice.
5. Cool completely
6. Break apart to serve...

I have been known to squirrel away an ice cream bowl, more than full, of these nuts and eat myself to the verge of being ill.

I can pass by chocolate. On many occasion, I've walked away from egg nog ice cream, maple creams, and death by chocolate brownies, but I've never been able to eat just one of these nuts.

Ah yes, with this recipe let the holiday binging begin.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A kid being a kid and not a musician

My littlest one was booted out of her music lessons yesterday. "I can't work with her," was the final comment uttered by her wonderful teacher. I shook his hand, thanked him for his patience, apologized for her little girl rudeness, and we left. Still, 12 hours later, I wonder what went wrong.

It was her idea for the lessons. She begged us. At first we were hesitant, thinking a small child doesn't understand what music lessons are. We started slow, purchasing them a week at a time for most of the summer. She practiced daily without being told. For her age, she played beautifully. I was lulled into a state of maybe she does get this, maybe she would be the next great female banjo player, and then it hit: the mood.

At home, she would practice and play wonderfully -- when asked, and when I sat with her; not unreasonable for a little one. But at her lesson she was uncooperative, refusing to try even the slightest new thing, like using her second finger on the third fret. Her behavior got her the talk on being rude, and early bed. She'd promise to behave, swearing that she wanted these expensive lessons. The next week it would be more of the same. Finally, she got the boot.

My initial unspoken reaction last night was that I'd never support her musical whims ever again. That I'm not about to buy yet another instrument for her to dabble in, only to have it left in a dusty case for years. And now, in the early next day morning, I may be softening. After all she's young. We gave her an opportunity... an expensive one, but regardless of price, it was a taste. And in the end, for whatever reason, it was not to her liking. So in her little girl nonverbal way she rejected it.

As a parent, instead of being lulled by her music, I should've seen the end coming. And instead of pushing the practicing, let it drop. I guess she's not the only student here. That there were other lessons being taught, besides the forward roll and index, middle, thumb.

I will miss the music. Maybe I should take the lessons for myself?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Part 70

The bottle emptied, rinsed and recycled, it wasn't until Charlotte walked into their bedroom that she remembered the two dogs. Kaylie and Gussie were curdled up on her side of the bed. Seemingly unshaken by their comfort, Sam had slid in next to them and was sound asleep.

"Come on girl," urged Charlotte whispering. "Come on Gussie, I need space too."

Both dogs opened their eyes and yawned. Neither showed any intention of moving.

"Kaylie, off -- Gussie, off."

Kaylie stretched a paw over the side of the bed as she tucked her nose under the upturned sheet.

Instead of arguing with the dogs, Charlotte opted to brush her teeth and get ready for bed first. While rinsing she thought of a way to entice the dogs out of her space. On her way back to her bedroom she made a stop in the kitchen and grabbed two biscuits. As soon as she walked back into the room, their noses must have smelled the mini t-bones, as their heads were up, their eyes open, their noses smelling in all directions. "Over here guys," she announced placing the treats right out side the door.

Both dogs leapt off the bed, sending a two foot shock wave through the mattress. The results bounced Sam's head twice without waking him. Until he rolled over Charlotte wondered if he were dead or drunk, even though he said he hadn't been drinking.

To the resounding sounds of crunching she climbed under the covers. And was just about asleep when 8 tiny feet attached to two rather large dogs tiptoed up on the bed, curling themselves around the human masses.

(25751)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Part 69

When Charlotte got home with the girls the house was dark and quiet. She was sure her parents were in bed asleep, but where was Sam? His car was in the garage. Drunk? Not wanting the girls to see him, she sent them straight up to bed. Calling, "Don't forget to brush your teeth," as they rounded the bend in the stairs. "We will," cascaded back.

The girls heading for bed, Charlotte looked for her husband. She looked in the den first. Nothing. His office. Nope. The dining room; no, but under the door to the kitchen, there was a faint light.
Slowly she crossed the room, took a deep breath, and then pushed the door wide.

There he was sitting at the table. In front of him was a half a bottle of scotch and an clean empty glass. His elbows were resting on the table, and his head was buried in his hands. Charlotte walked over and stood behind him. "Are you okay?'

Without lifting his head, he nodded it up and down.

"Have you been drinking?"

He gave a silent nod, and then looked up at his wife. "I've been sitting here for three hours. Taking it a second at a time."

"Why?"

"I couldn't move." Sam lifted his head and gripped Charlotte's hands, "I couldn't leave the sight of it."

"Why don't you come with me?"

Slowly Sam lifted himself out of his chair. His knees so used to being seated, his first few steps were a bit stiff legged. "What about the bottle?"

Charlotte kissed his cheek. "I'll take care of it."

Both knew when his back was turned she'd get rid of it. Pouring the contents down the drain and putting the rinsed out bottle in the recycling bin.

"Thank you."

(25478)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Today is the day

For over six months a group of us have been planning and primping for a Christmas concert at our church. Three other parishes are joining us. Tonight is the night. After tonight, after I return the power strips to the religious ed classrooms, and after I load the sound equipment we rented back into my Rig, and after I host this event -- complete with wearing a dress and makeup, and after we clean up the hall and the lower church, I'll start getting ready for Christmas. I've been waiting for this concert to come, and now I'm waiting for it to go.

It's not that it won't be great. It will. I was at the rehearsal early this week. It's just that it's been a lot of work. Sometimes fun work, sometimes busy work, sometimes frustrating work. I'm looking forward to writing Christmas cards and sitting, and not worrying about the programs, the raffle, or whether there will be enough food to feed the possible 600 guests at the reception to follow.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Part 68

It flurried as Santa pulled up on a hook and ladder for the town tree lighting. Lovie screamed, "Santa, Santa!" The old man smiled at her and waved. "Mom, he saw me, Mom, Santa!"

Charlotte loved the tree lighting. The girls went for the free Starbucks hot chocolate and cookies. But Charlotte went for the dose of Christmas cheer. Like a hypodermic of adrenaline, it boosted her heart rate and put a glow in her cheeks. And the townwide 5th grade band wasn't bad either. Sarah used to play. One more year and Jenny would be up their playing her flute.

She sat back and let the festivities carry her away.

"Charlotte?"

It was Nancy, an old friend from high school. There was something unsettling about running into high school friends. She often thought about moving two miles away; just to be in a neighboring town.

"Nancy, how are you?"

"I'm fine, dear -- what about you? I saw Jodie, who was talking to Joey, remember him, Carol's husband and he said that... "

Charlotte hated to be called dear. Why did someone her own age do this? "Yes, I'm pregnant."

Nancy's face fell. "At your age?"

"Oh, we're not that old, Nancy."

"My oldest, George, is in college."

It was now Charlotte's turn to drop her lower jaw. "College?"

"A junior, at Yale, studying pre med and pre law."

Talk about being an over achiever. Charlotte started to get up, with the idea to locate Lovie who had wandered up towards the stage, and the underlying plan to get away from the aged. "Can I help you dear?"

"Nancy," she sighed. "I'm all set, really."

"Are you sure? You look peaked."

Mad was more like it. "No, I'm fine. Oh there's Lovie, I must go." With that she slipped into the crowd.

(25183)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Some friends are just plain funny looking

Yesterday, I had a lovely visit over coffee. But I suspect Daisy thought I was there to visit with her instead of her Mama. She was in my lap pretty much the whole time. Looking for love in all the wrong places... No, not really. But it amazes me, and I love animals, just how affectionate (in a platonic way) animals can be. She just wanted to be close, as you can see from this picture. And yes, I do love her like a chicken. I guess some people have strange habits as well.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A beautiful start

The sun is rising right through our kitchen window.
The girls are singing along with this year's Christmas play CD.
It's a pause in a schedule that would choke a whole stable of horses.
I'm holding onto this feeling for the whole day.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

I'm knitting

I have a dream, a fantasy really, where I'm surrounded by yarn and have the task to knit it all into a warm colorful blanket. That is sort of what is happening. Mrs. D and I are still spinning wool off of those two sheep fleeces.

My life is so hectic... that I turn to knitting to grab some time for myself. I'm knitting a wrap. I need to add another three feet, at least. Since I can't knit standing up, or driving, I figure it's sitting security.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Part 67

The girl's in school, Sam at work, and her dad out doing the food shopping, Charlotte and her mom were working on their Christmas letter and putting together a combined Christmas card list. At first the letter seemed to be a daunting task. No one wants to receive a novel tucked into a Christmas card, but what to put in and what to leave out.

With a pen in hand, Debbie was writing, trip to Seattle, gambled in Las Vegas, visited the house where A Christmas Story was filmed in Cleveland.

"Mom, is the Christmas Story house that important?" asked Charlotte who had just returned to the table carrying two cups of coffee.

"Yes," she replied, looking over the tops of her reading glasses, " and aren't you suppose to carry one cup of coffee at a time?"

It was great having her parents at the house. It was great to have their help, but... Charlotte took in a deep breath. "You're right."

Returning to her writing Debbie commented, "Well if that baby is important to you, you'd stop doing things Dr. Houseman has told you not to."

"Mom, whether the baby has any physical or mental challenges when it is born..."

"If it gets born," interjected her mom.

Speaking above her mother's voice, "When he is born, will have nothing to do with whether I carried two cups of coffee or one. The last ultrasound showed the placenta was moving away from the cervix. Therefore my chances of miscarrying were diminishing."

Her mother's shoulder's slumped. "I only want what's best for you and the baby."

Charlotte rested her hand on her mother's shoulder, "I know. I'm sorry."

Debbie smiled. "I know too."

Knowing it was the tension of the cancer, and the effect of the cancer itself that caused the majority of her mother's mood swings, Charlotte tried to be more patient, and changed the subject back to the letter, "Did you put in about running into Prince Charles, while you and dad were in London?"

Debbie was writing again, "No, but that was a good one. Imagine running into him in that pub. Who knew royalty got out like that?"

"If it weren't for the photography of you and dad with him, I wouldn't believe it. Maybe you should use that picture on the letter?"

Debbie shock her head, "Good idea, but what about you? What are you putting in?"

"Oh the usual, I'm 47 - pregnant, Jenny nearly died, Lovie is fine, Sarah is the best, and Sam..." thoughts of his still not quite under control flashed into her mind.

Debbie reached out and placed her hand on her daughter's hand, "Sam is doing fine. He's a wonderufl husband, great father, tolerant son-in-law."

"But he still drinking, despite the meetings."

"It's not a switch they can flip. It's like a cancer, lurking. He'll get there again."

Charlotte nodded, hoping the tears that were pooling in the corner of her eyes would stay there.

(24882)

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Part 66

It was 2 AM, Charlotte was wide awake listening to Kaylie and Gussie snoring at the foot of their bed. What had they done? Two dogs, two huge snoring dogs... and, rubbing her stomach, a partridge in her pear tree. Their house was never a boring place, and now it was more of a circus. As she pulled the comforter up under her chin, Sam rolled over, kissed her on the hollow of her neck and asked, "Going anywhere?"

"No," she answered, dreamily.

Then looking down at the limp dogs sprawled impeding his feet, asked, "Want to celebrate our new additions?"

Charlotte laughed. "How, by spreading doggie treats on the comforter?"

"No, by kicking out our guests and exploring all the possible scenarios of..."

Charlotte rolled her eyes as she let out a wicked giggle. "Maybe we should watch them... get pointers..."

"Charlotte! What are you saying?"

Both husband and wife rocked the bed with their laughter, until Charlotte felt the baby kick. Grabbing her husband's hand she laid it upon her abdomen and said, "Sam, Sam, feel here."

Forgoing their plans, they spent the rest of the morning lying in bed, quietly feeling the baby's movements.

(23900)

Saturday, December 01, 2007

... and for BazPhotogirl and EVERY OTHER MOM

YOU HAVE TO WATCH THIS.

Dear God was this woman at my house, or was it your's. I'm speechless. I'm off to watch it again, and again...

For BazPhotogirl - Part 65

Charlotte's quick errand to the shelter took up the afternoon. For after they picked up Kaylie, they had to get a crate, collar, leash, food, bowls,and Lovie insisted on picking play toys. As they walked up and down the aisles, Charlotte watched as the sparked dim in her mother's eyes.

"Are you okay?"

"Just getting tired."

"Do you want to wait in the car with dad and Kaylie?"

Her mother smiled. "No, I enjoy watching Lovie picking out things for the dog. She's such a wonderful little girl." Then touching her daughter on the shoulder she added, "You've done a great job with her, with all your children."

Tears welled up in Charlotte's eyes, "Thanks, Mom."

Just as the tears were really going to flow, Lovie interrupted the moment. "Can we get this? Jackie's dog has one."

Charlotte chuckled. "Well, if Jackie's dog has one, then Kaylie better have one too."

Then with a puzzled look on her face, Lovie asked, "Should I get two?"

Both women burst out laughing. "No," Charlotte added, "I meant to say we should get one also."

"Oh," with that Lovie tossed her find into the shopping cart and announced she was off to find more treasures.

"Someday you're going to have to reign her in," commented Debbie.

Still smiling as she watched her daughter clawing through the bin of Christmas doggy toys, Charlotte murmured, "Yeah, someday."

When they pulled into the driveway, Sam's car was gone, and there was no one home. There was no note on the table. Strange, thought Charlotte, usually he is very good about saying where and when he going... While Debbie rested, Charlotte's dad carried all the heavy dog paraphernalia into the house, and Lovie helped by unpacking all the toys and splitting them between the dog bed and crate.

"Should you leave some of that for Jenny?" asked Charlotte.

"I'll let her be the first to fill this one with peanutbutter," announced Lovie holding the toy up like a trophy.

Charlotte shook her head in agreement.

While all the unpacking and setting up was going on, Kaylie was about her business, sniffing everywhere and everything. First it was the mudroom, then the kitchen with a brief stop for a drink in the bathroom toilet. "Gross," screamed Lovie, who happened upon the scene. "Mom, Kaylie's in the toilet!"

Just like having a baby, things would have to change, like no leaving the toilet lid up. And remembering not to let the dog lick you on the face. A shudder traveled through Charlotte's entire body when an image of a toilet licking her flashed in her mind. What had she done?

It was close to dinner time when Sam with the two other girls pulled into the driveway. Charlotte saw the car, but then returned to getting the dinner going with the help of her dad, who was lifting everything heavier than a coffee cup. Basically she was sitting in on a kitchen stool and gently advising him about.

When Sarah and Jenny came in from the mudroom, their faces were pinched with a secret.

Detecting a crack in their resolve, Charlotte asked, "What's up with you two?"

Sarah immediately answered, "Don't go in the mudroom?"

Her next question, why, didn't have to pass her lips. The ruckus of dogs barking answered it before it was uttered. Bursting in through the kitchen door, a collie mix in tow, was Sam looking a bit frazzled. "I guess we both had a great idea today. Meet Gussie."

(23703)

Friday, November 30, 2007

Well it's been a month of blogging...

Not quite the 50,000 words needed to graduate into NANOWRIMO fame, but I wrote everyday, so I'll take it. Thanks for following along. In the end, if I ever write the end, Sam stays on the wagon, Charlotte has a very healthy baby boy, Jonah, her mother is alive for the birth but dies, at home, in the weeks after. And Kaylie the dog is a wonderful new addition to the family; for all of them. It's strange how great things come in the oddest packages.

Part 64


"I thought you said you wanted a small dog?"

For twenty minutes Charlotte and Lovie had been playing with a huge black Lab named Kaylie. The tag on her run said she was great with children and old people, but given half a second would steal the food right off the table. Not answering her father's question, Charlotte turned to Lovie and asked, "Are you sure this is the kind of dog you and Jenny were talking about?" The littlest informer shook her head.

Then turning to face her father, Charlotte asked, "Dad?" The full implied questions was clearly understood to be, would you please help me take this on?

"Why are you getting this dog?"

"Mother's guilt... and the fact that I almost lost her... and it's the last thing she would ever expect... something special for her."

It was now Charlotte's mom turn to chime in, "How can a dog be only hers; a nine year old?"

"I know this is one of those mine on paper situations. She'll love it, might remember to feed it and won't walk it after the first week, but it feels right."

"And what about Sam?"

The answer, Sam won't mind flew out between her lips, but deep in the recesses of her brain she really wondered if she should consult him first.

"So you get Jenny a dog, what are you going to get Sarah and Lovie?"

"From the pile of dog flesh and daughter came the answer, "I want a Barbie doll that dances on a stage."

Charlotte shook her head, and smiled.

"And Sarah, will she want a dog? You seem to be hyper focused on the one daughter."

Charlotte started patting Kaylie. "Sarah would love a dog. She's wanted one for years... this would be a good opportunity..."

"Then why not get Kaylie for the house and not just for the one."

Maybe that was a better idea. After all it would take everyone to take care of her.

The attendant, who had given them some space to become acquainted with Kaylie returned and commented, "Kaylie has been here for a while and I've never seen her get along with a new family before."

"Then we'll take her."

(23121)

Part 63

To ease the Christmas load, Charlotte was determined to do all her holiday shopping right from her cozy pink recliner. A cup of decaf beside her, still in her pajamas, robe and slippers, she was intently searching the web for the latest Do Everything Suzy doll for Lovie. But instead of seeing Ship By dates she was finding Sold Out, Sold Out, Sold Out. Did retailers do this on purpose? She was just about ready to click over to eBay and see how high the after market prices were, when the little cherub walked in and perched herself on her mother's lap.

Curling her way up into the folds of her mother's robe, Lovie said, "Hi, Mommy."

Finding it difficult to balance her laptop, with her new found typing assistant, Charlotte closed the screen and set her shopping aside. "Hi Sweetheart."

"What are you doing?"

"Shopping."

"Can I help?"

Charlotte wondered, could she help? And after a second or two of quick thinking replied, "Yes, go get me a pencil and a piece of scrap paper." Dutifully her elf completed the task, and was back in her cozy perch. "Okay," said Charlotte talking to Lovie, but really setting up a mental list as well as a physical one on paper. "What are we going to get Jenny for Christmas? Knowing the girls had been hoarding their favorite catalogs for weeks, she knew her youngest had full knowledge of her sister's list for Santa.

"She wants the new holiday American Girl dress for her and her Emily."

Charlotte wrote it down while thinking, maybe the doll dress, but to get the dress for Jenny too would be too expensive. "Anything else?"

"She wants the new doll Julie."

Again she wrote it down while thinking, very expensive, and asking, "Doe she want anything else not from American Girl?"

"No..." was her informers first answer, but hen she popped up like a toast from a toaster and blurted, "She wants a puppy."

"A puppy, you say..." Charlotte didn't think she could buy a dog from her chair, but a puppy... except for the fact she would be the one to take care of it... a puppy just might be doable. "What kind of puppy? Did Jenny say?"

Lovie's eyes lit up. "Are we getting a puppy for Christmas?"

Charlotte thought for a moment before answering. "I don't know... If she did get one, could you keep it a secret?"

Lovie jostled all about as she nodded her head yes.

"Then go find Nana and Grandpa and see if they can come in here."

With her bundle off on another mission, Charlotte started to think she was out of her mind to consider getting a dog for Jenny. Wasn't life complicated enough with her mother dying, and her high risk pregnancy? Before she could answer that question there was the stampede of little feet being followed by larger feet that cut into her conversation with herself.

"What's this about a dog?" asked her father.

"I was wondering if you could drive me to the shelter; just to have a look."

"Just a look?" Now it was her mother questioning her daughter's actions. "Do you really need a dog now? You can't walk it. I certainly can't..."

"I know it's not practical, but maybe that is why it's so right." Charlotte went on to explain her idea on how a dog, a smaller one, might just be what they needed. Something to occupy their time. Something for Jenny to call her own. After all she had been through.

Charlotte's dad picked up the Christmas list she had laid down next to her laptop. "Don't you think a doll and some clothes would be more practical?"

He was right. In the end, when all was said and done, the dog would be more. But would there be more bang for the buck? "Let's just go look. I have a feeling about this."

"Can I come too?" It was Lovie. I want a dog.

Charlotte hugged her littlest, and then looking into the disapproving and tired eyes of her parents said, "Of course you can."

(22751)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Part 62

The Panchot household was a well oiled machine. Sam was up before the rest making lunches and setting up for breakfast. Sarah was next. Having to catch the bus around 7 AM. Followed by Charlotte's dad, George, whose morning focus was getting the coffee on. Then Jenny and Lovie, who insisted on being snuggled while still in bed. The unknowns, and Charlotte was okay not to be running the show, were Charlotte and her mom; more so her mom. The women would rise when their bodies released them from sleep. Some mornings Charlotte was up with Sam, drinking coffee with her dad. Others, she was still fast asleep until right before the bus tooted from Lovie and Jenny. What she liked best was getting up with her husband. With him back to work, there was very little time for just the two of them.

So this morning when she was flirting with the line between her world of dreams and consciousness she crossed over with a smile on her face. When Sam walked into their bedroom with nothing on but a towel around his middle age waist, she was ready for him.

"Care to be late for work?"

Searching for a shirt in their closet, Sam chuckled. "Need me to change a light bulb or take the garbage out?"

"Oh, no. I have my dad around for that. No, I have a very special task for you."

There was an edge to her voice. It was the first time his wife had suggested anything intimate since coming home from the hospital. It was obvious, by the drape of his towel, that Sam was interested and up for a bit of play. "Are you sure? Should you check with the doctor?"

Charlotte reached for the phone by her bedside, "Should you wake him, or me?"

The towel drooped. "Hasn't he said anything about sex during the 100 appointments you've had since getting out of the hospital?"

"Yes." Charlotte slid over towards the middle of their bed and lifted off the covers, exposing her flesh to the cold morning air.

Sam dropped his towel, and slide back under the covers next to his wife. And as they became reacquainted with each other's attributes Charlotte wondered how their little morning meeting would effect the rest of the schedule.

(22063)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Part 61

It was somewhere between 5 and 6 in the morning. Unable to sleep, Charlotte had gotten up and wrapping herself up in their luxurious fleece blanket, and settled herself into the oversized pink sanctuary in the family room. A cup of tea in one hand and the trashy romance novel she kept on hand for such sleepless nights, she shrugged up her whole body to generate some immediate warmth. Despite all her complaining about the world's worst case of insomnia, she truly cherished this early mornings. For now she really had time on her side. Of course there was plenty of that with not being able to lift anything heavier than the cup of tea now pressed to her lips. But it was the quiet.

Reaching under the blanket, she rubbed her expanding abdomen. Perhaps in a few months, if they were lucky, th house wouldn't be so quiet. A smile spread across her face. She was getting use to the idea of being the oldest parent in history of a kindergartener. Or at least that was what Sarah was saying. Wouldn't that be nice? To have a baby and then a child that was happy and whole and healthy.

And then as if on cue the baby kicked, and Sarah walked into the room. "What are you doing up? Mother asked sleepy yawning daughter, but she could have been asking either of her children present at the time.

Sarah stretched and as her arms reached their longest extension the baby kicked again. "Stop that!" Charlotte said in a sharp but teasing way.

"Stop what?" asked back the only child who she could physically hear at that time.

"All that stretching. Your brother is following along with every motion. I'll be black and blue from the inside out."

Sarah hurried towards her mom. Her eyes were wide with curiosity and her hands were reaching for her mother's bump.

These early mornings, Charlotte wouldn't miss them for the world. She reached out one of her own hands, and directed her daughter's gentle touch so that she too could feel her brother's playfullness.

And as if to know there was love on the other side of the thick muscle wall, the baby kicked his foot out into their hands and held it there. Sarah's eyes widened even further. "Does he know we're here?"

"He could," answered Charlotte, just as excited as her daughter. Even with this being her third child, feeling him move inside her was so deeply and emotionally binding. She couldn't wait to hold him, to love him. Regardless of the physical problems, or length of his time on earth, she would love him.

Her daughter's words broke into her little lovefest. "You know Mom, he reminds me of one of those dolphins that comes to the surface when their trainers are around."

"Really. Do you think you'll be calling him a dolphin when he comes out?"

"I hope I get to call him period, when he comes out." Sarah's seriousness hit Charlotte head on. She wasn't the only one worried about the little life inside her. The web of life spreads its threads far and wide. Here she thought she was putting on the brave face, and carrying most of the baby burden within her. Of course, Sam had his own worries he toted, but Charlotte had assumed the girls were floating free and easy as it were. Obviously she was wrong.

"Do you want to be there for the birth?" The question was out and floating in the air, before she fully realized what she was saying. Sarah must've been equally shocked, as if touching a hot stove or being hit with a jolt of electricity , she momentarily withdrew her hand from her mother's warm bump.

"You want me in there?"

The staunch mother in her stopped and thought for a moment. The quick answer, No not really floated into her head. But... for the sake of her daughter and her son... the words, "Yes, if you want to be there, yes," came out of her lips.

Her daughter sat in silence. Her hand resumed its fishing for movement. The baby accommodated her by sending up flutters. "What's he doing?"

Charlotte shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know. Swimming around. After all it's toasty warm."

Then turning all serious, Sarah answered her mom, "Can I decide about being there later?"

"Sure."

For the next hour as the sky outside the window brightened with the new dawn, no words were spoken, as the mother and her children reached out to touch each other.

(21680)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I like this picture

I took it through the very blue section of the windshield of our Big Rig. Of course I was driving...

Part 60

The movie marathon spread over two days. After all the girls still had school. And with Charlotte home from the hospital Sam's long term medical leave ran out and he had to return to work, and Debbie, despite looking fine, tired easily.

The days that followed were cookie cutter cut outs: get up, go to work or school, come home to homework and dinner, watch a movie. After the girls and Sam left Charlotte and her mom would have their coffee and sit and look through family albums, or plow through a scrap box or two, in between doctors appointments.

This morning, Charlotte dug out the bin of old family photos. "It was always my intention to put these in an album."

"I don't know, sweetheart. There is something exciting about digging into the pile and pulling out a handful of old relatives. Our family wasn't one to be tamed between the sheets... of a book."

Was her mother trying to make a joke? "Still maybe they should be labeled. Otherwise the girls and their girls will say this is somebody, but I don't know who."

Taking a deep swig of her coffee Debbie had to concede that one to her daughter. "Get a pen and I'll give you a hand."

For most of the day, barely stopping to eat, the two ladies labeled the back of the photographs with all the information they could remember. With each picture there was s story and after hours of listening Charlotte got out the old tape recorder and recorded her mother's tales.

"This is your great grandfather on my mother's father's side, George Brown. This picture was taken right after he bought the old farm up on Walnut."

"Did he live their when you knew him?"

"Oh he swore he'd died on that farm."

"Did he?"

Debbie nodded. "But not until I was married to your father. Grandpa said it was living so close to the land that kept him alive so long."

Charlotte's thoughts flashed forward and to her own mother's mortality and to the life she carried within her. She could do nothing about either. Her mother, showing slight signs of slowing, was determined to live each day fully. And the baby, although very active and growing, was still not developing as well as they hoped. According to Dr. Houseman, "the large head size is indicative of fluid collecting near the brain." Charlotte caught the word indicative and said, "But you don't know. He could just have a large head."

For the hundredth time in twenty doctors appointments spread over two months the doctor let out a sigh, "Charlotte I've seen more of this type of defect than I care to admit. If the baby makes it full term, he may not live for very long." Feeling as good as she was towards the end of her second trimester, she was not going to worry. Everything always works out for the best. She dug her hand into the bin before her and introduced herself to some more relatives.

(20921)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Part 59

The girls tucked under blankets, snuggled up with their grandparents, Sam and Charlotte stole away into the kitchen.

Sleepily Lovie called after them, "Mom, can we have popcorn?"

Leaning into her husband, Charlotte answered back, "In a minute."

Sam laughed, and reaching up into the cabinet behind him pulled out a package of microwaveable popcorn. "Did you really mean in a minute?" he asked.

His wife smirked. "Well maybe ten minutes."

"Then I won't wrestle you off my other arm so I can get into the microwave." Changing the subject he asked, "Are you okay?"

Charlotte glanced away for a second before answering. "Yeah, I am. I'm glad my folks came home. Not just for me and the baby, but for Jenny, Sarah and Lovie. It will be hard when my mother's health deteriorates, but for now they are here. It's these days they will remember."

"Mom," it was Lovie again. "The popcorn; I starving."

"We'll be right here."

(20413)

Part 58

The girls took Nana's news quite well. At least, Charlotte thought so, and for the moment everyone was happy and calm. Instead of cooking dinner Sam suggested they get some pizzas and have a movie night.

"How about a Lord of the Rings marathon?" suggested Jenny. It was her favorite movie, which caused her mother some level of worry. All that violence; why did she ever let her watch them?

"How about Princess Diaries I and II?" offered Lovie.

"No," answered Sarah, then looking towards her parents with pleading eyes, "That's all we've been watching lately."

Sam laughed. It was true. Just by overhearing the sound track he had jsut about memorized the entire movie. "Lord of Rings sounds good to me, Mom, Dad are you up for it."

Debbie and George both nodded.

So the call placed for dinner delivery, the first of the three movies in the DVD player, the Panchot - Smith family sat down together for a night and more of the one ring.

Charlotte looked about their family room and was pleased that her family was with her. How little time they spent as a family. In a way her mom's cancer and her pregnancy were gifts. The gift of quality time. For the best was yet to come, and she'd be there to savor every second.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Part 57

"Ovarian." for the second time in as many hours tears reached out for the edge of her eyes.

"Advanced"

"Are you sure?"

Debbie nodded her head. I had my records sent to Dr. Houseman and he, he..."

Charlotte finished her mom's sentence, "confirmed the diagnosis."

Debbie nodded her head again.

"And why won't you do anything?"


Debbie sat back down next to her daughter and placed one of her hands between her own. "Sweetheart, Nana had ovarian cancer. She fought the good fight, only to be sick for the last remaining months of her life."

Now through a streams of tears Charlotte asked, "How long?"

"A few months, a year -- it depends on how aggressively it progresses."

"Will you stay here with us?"

Sobbing now herself, Debbie replied, "I was hoping we could stay here with you, Sam and the girls, but your life is so complicated. Really, we'll be fine. We'll head down to Florida and stay in our old community."

"No Mom," Charlotte leaned over and hugged her mom. "I want you to stay here, with us, with family."

"Okay, we'll stay."

Charlotte smiled. "Let's go tell everyone we have guests for dinner and then some."

(20254)

Part 56

Before her mother was through the doorway Charlotte asked, "What's going on?"

Debbie slowly walked over to the chair next to her daughter's side of the bed and sat down.

"We saw Dr. Houseman today and..."

"And we saw Dr. Reid," her mother shot back.

Her mother's announcement took her aback. "Dr. Reid, what for? Is Jenny okay?"

"His nurse called and supposedly Jenny had her follow up appointment this morning. They were wondering why she didn't make."

With everything that was going on... But seriously how could anyone remember the details of her screwed up circus of a life? "What did he say?"

"He said she is a walking miracle. That he expected her to regain full use of her arm and hand, but he's never seen a spinal cord injury heal so quickly."

One good thing; thank God. "Thanks for taking her. I completely forgot."

Debbie rested her hand on her daughter's shoulder. "It's understandable. You've got a lot going on yourself." Then changing the subject she asked, "What are you doing up here? What are you writing?"

Charlotte glanced down at her hands, still poised on the keyboard. "Relaxing. Trying to gain an evener kneel."

Then Debbie's eyes brightened and her hand shot into her pocket. "That editor of your's called. He wanted to know if you could take an assignment for January. Something about homeless women and facing their roads to recovery."

It sounded interesting to Charlotte, but...

"It would give you something to write, and you'd get paid."

Yes, it would be the best of both worlds, if she could manage to keep her life's details on track. She took the slip of paper from her mother's outstretched hand. "Thanks, I'll think about it. There's a lot going on now."

Debbie's eyes turned away from her daughter. Charlotte took it as an admission of guilt. "You were already heading east when Sam called you, weren't you."

"Not quite, but yes we were packing up to leave in the next day or two."

"And you didn't mention it?"

"Don't you think your life was crazy enough without adding my medical issues to the mix?"

"Yes, but no... You should've said something. You've been here a while now. It could have been mentioned, oh by the way, I need to to see the doctor too."

"But why make you worry?"

"Why not?"

Debbie stood and slowly paced from the door to the bed. Her hand was rubbing her chin. Her head was down. Finally, in a thin voice she murmured, "There's nothing anyone can do. It's ovarian cancer."

(20056)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Part 55

The ride was home was quiet. When they walked into the house, it was even quieter. Looking at her husband for the first time since leaving the doctors, Charlotte said, "I'm going upstairs." Peering over his wire frames, he didn't say a word. He didn't follow her.

Upstairs, changed into her elastic waisted fleece pants and one of Sam's sweatshirts, Charlotte retreated under her covers, taking her lap top with her. Not thinking about her mother, father, her children or husband, she opened up a fresh text file and taking a deep breath, started the write. The question what to write crossed her mind as her laid her fingers on the keyboard. It doesn't matter, , was the answer that quickly followed. For in writing, she found a calmness, and that was exactly what she needed.

On her 19th birthday, Jessie with her car keys jingling in her hand, waved good bye to her parents, John and Elizabeth Byrd, said she's be back in an hour and then promptly disappeared. That was eleven years ago. Could the body they dug up near the abandoned mine be hers? Her mother refused to believe it. In her heart she knew her daughter was still alive. In their picture window she kept a Christmas candle burning.

Who are you holding out hope for now? Charlotte didn't have an answer. Not for her stream of consciousness story, or for her own life. Live was just too fleeting. It was frigging yesterday when she and Sam got married. It seemed like this morning when Sarah, then Jessie and Lovie were born. Would she be burying her own mother later this afternoon? A tear coursed down her left cheek.

"Mrs. Byrd," it was Lt. Drew, the Officer that handled the cold cases, on the phone, "do you recall whether Jessie wore a black leather chocker with barbed decorations?"

Elizabeth couldn't believe her ears; black leather, barbed decorations? "No, not my Jessie."

The line went silent. "I'm sorry, but you have the wrong girl. Your calling the wrong parents."

"Mrs. Byrd, due to the start of the body the coroner has only been able to make a partial dental match."

More silence.

"Mrs. Byrd, I'm pretty sure that we've found your daughter."

"Well, I'm not." And with that Elizabeth hung up the phone.

Charlotte's fingers were poised on the keys, waiting for the next story line to pop into her head when there was a soft knock upon her door. Leaving Jessie and Elizabeth's world behind, she answered, "Who is it?"

"It's me, dear, your mother. May I come in?"

(19629)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Part 54

"I'm sorry Charlotte, but the baby's measurements are still indicative of a problem with chromosome 18."

How could this be, with the good news wave they had been riding? "Are you sure doctor?"

Dr. Houseman looked to Sam, and then to Charlotte. "I wish I could tell you differently. Maybe things will change, but I don't have a whole lot of faith on this one... I'm sorry."

Tears leaked down both Charlotte's and Sam's face.

Then writing on her records the doctor said, "We'll continue to do the ultrasounds."

"Okay, we'll be back in two weeks," said Sam.

"Oh, I won't see you before?"

Charlotte's face wrinkled with puzzlement. "What?"

"Well, I probably have said too much..."

"You might as well finish saying it," added Sam as he continued to hold his wife's hand.

"It's your mother. She came to see me this morning." Then glancing down at his desk he continued, "Maybe you should go home and talk with her."

(19197)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Part 53

With another ultrasound scheduled in the morning, yes, maybe it was a sign of good things to come. All these ultrasounds; if her risk of losing the baby wasn't so high, she'd of had that amnio. Even Dr. Houseman wasn't for it. So instead the battery of picture sessions was before her. Usually Sam came with her for these events would he be put for this one.

That night, before turning in they went over the schedule for the next day with her parents.

"Sarah is off to school at 6:30" said Sam.

"That's awful, " interrupted Charlotte's dad. "How do they expect these kids to learn on very little sleep?"

"They don't. Then the little ones walk at 8:30."

"I'll walk them," volunteered Debbie.

"Jake, from Jake's Oil and Heating is coming sometime between 10 and 3, Sarah comes home either at 2:50 or 4, the little one's need to get picked up at 3:15, and," turning towards his wife, "our ultrasound is at 4."

So he was planning on coming with her. But what about his meeting? The thought had no sooner flashed through her mind when her dad said those same exact words.

"Seven o'clock."

Settling back into his chair, Charlotte's dad announced, "I'll go with you. With living out of that box and moving for a living, I don't have a usual support network anywhere. It's great to see some of the old boys again."

Charlotte didn't know for sure, but she wondered if her dad really needed to be going to these meetings or whether he was being the supportive network that Sam needed. With Charlie and Angie away for still another month, having her dad around for Sam was looking to be another good thing.

"If the ultrasound is over, I'll go," stated Sam.

Knowing if the ultrasound was not over, it could be bad news, Charlotte's dad came back with, "If the ultrasound is not over, I'll pick you up at the hospital."

It was then Debbie's turn to chime in, "I have a quick errand this morning, then I'll woman the kitchen. Some body has to feed this crew."

Yes, good things were coming.

(19036)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Part 52

Sitting at a long table along side Sam and Sarah, and across from her folks and the two little ones, Charlotte could barely contain herself. With all the excitement of being served as if they lived in the 17th century, she was practically bouncing out of her seat.

"Mom," said Sarah in a strained, but hushed voice, "the other people are looking at you. Sit still."

The fact that Sarah was correcting her, made Charlotte laugh causing her to fall off the bench. The only thing that saved her from hitting the floor was she fell against two men sitting at the table behind them.

"Oh, I'm sorry, " she gushed like a school girl. "This is my first time eating like a Pilgrim. Have you done this before?"

The men smiled at each other, helped Charlotte back into her place, and not answering her question, quickly returned to their own conversations with their own families.

"They probably think you're a drunk," whispered Sarah.

Realizing Sarah was the voice of reason, she was a bit more reserved, and cowering like a dog caught with the beef bones from the trash can in its mouth, said, "Sorry."

Until the food arrived, Charlotte sat with her hands in her lap. Was her school girl demeanor because she was in the presence of her parents? They had only been wonderful since arriving. Walking the girls to school. Running out to get take out for last night's dinner. Her dad even went to a meeting with Sam. It had been a while since he had been to one, so under the guise of probably needing a refresher, accompanied his son-in-law. Her mom washed, dried and folded the five loads of whites and colors that had managed to spill out of the laundry room. And now they were at Plymouth Plantation eating like Pilgrims.

First was the bread and butter, followed by turkey and stewed pompion. The turkey was wonderful, but one bite of the pompion and Charlotte thought her whole body, being lead by her digestive tract, was heading for heaven. Attracting the attention of their historic interpreter server, she asked, "What is this?"

"Pompion, mamam."

"What is pompion?"

"It is a vegetable that grows well here. Maybe you've seen it out in our fields."

Charlotte had been to Plymouth many times, but never saw a pompion. "You say it grows well here."

"Yes, mamam." Then giving a hint, "It's a large orange flesh. We stew it with a bit of butter, some ginger, salt and vinegar."

"Pumpkin?"

"Some from a foreign land may call it that."

For all she knew pumpkin was only good for pie, and pumpkin pie was not a favorite by a long shot. Given the chance to have pumpkin pie or nothing for dessert, Charlotte would choose nothing, thank you.

The next dish served was a dish taken from the Wompanoag called potage. A maize based dish with spinach and fresh herbs. Looking around at her family, Charlotte saw she wasn't the only member truly enjoying these very traditional foods. Catching the eye of their interpreter, she asked, "Is there anyway we can get these recipes?"

"I believe there is a book available mamam."

Lovie piped up, "You have to get it. I love this stuff."

With food dripping down her fingers, Jenny nodded her agreement.

And they would, since Lovie was such a picky eater. It would be a pleasure to serve something nutritious that she would actually eat willingly.

For dessert there was Indian Pudding, a pudding based upon corn meal and molasses. "We have to have this too," added Sarah. Who obviously had shared her sister's enthusiasm for the meal.

At the end of the meal, the Panchots waddled through the gift store in search of the cookbook. "Here it is Mom," shouted Jenny. The book in hand they slowly walked back to her parents mobile home. And as they head home on Route 3, the sun setting on another different but perfect Thanksgiving, Charlotte said, "Thanks, Mom and Dad. This was perfect."

Her mom just smiled and said, "Things always work out in the end."

Charlotte nodded, and despite this not being the end, was happy for some peace and happiness. On this Thanksgiving she was thankful for the tiny baby that surprised them all, for it brought her parents across the country, and gave them a Thanksgiving that was out of the ordinarily special. Maybe it was a sign...

(18683)

Part 51

Still sitting behind the closed bathroom door, Charlotte was dried off, and dressed when there came a familiar rapping sounded on the other side of the door.

"Sweetheart, it's me." The voice was all too familiar, all too sing- songy.

Charlotte's heart sank down into the baby. Swallowing hard, she tried to bolster her spirits. "I'll be right out."

"Daddy and I have a surprise, so do hurry."

Determined to put a better foot forward, Charlotte put a smile on her face, and picked up her discarded pajamas. Opening the door, she wrapped her full arms around her mother, said, "Hi Mom." and noted that Deborah Jane Landis seemed smaller and more frail.

"How are you, dear?"

"Fine. I just have to take it easy." Charlotte walked past her mother and started towards her bedroom. Her mother followed. "How are you?"

"Can't complain." Then changing the subject, "Did Sam keep our trip a secret?"

"Yes, I had no idea you and Dad were coming."

Her mother giggled like a school girl. "We made him promise not to tell."

"Well he didn't." Her voice almost giving away the frustration she was feeling.

"This is so exciting. Oh due hurry up so we can go down stairs."

"I'm all set." The words out of her mouth Charlotte wondered if she was ever really all set for her parents. Oh they were well meaning, and loved her and her family deeply, but they were eccentric -- to be nice. Having sold their home, and bought a land ark, they traveled all the time. Their communication limited to sporadic emails and the static filled cell phone conversations, Charlotte never knew really where they were on any given day. Occasionally package would arrive from far away places like Nevada or Oregon, even even close by places like New Jersey with tshirts and pressed pennies for the girls. Cheers would erupt, "A new penny!" and a push pin was placed in the girls' map of the United States that hung in the family room. Thinking of the map made her smile.

As she walked down the stairs, Charlotte was delighted that last night's mess was no where in sight, or detectable. Of course her parent's knew Sam had a little problem. But who wants to face it the minute they stop in for a visit. Was this a visit? Or was it something more permanent? What was her parents' news?

Walking into the kitchen, the sound of sizzling bacon and her father's military embrace greeted her. "Hi Dad."

"Hello Charlotte." Having been in the military, active and reserves for over 40 years, the military style was all he knew. Growing up his daughter learned not to press for any more emotion than he was able to present. Besides her mother more than made up for him.

Seated at the kitchen table, her morning decaf before her, Charlotte asked. "So what do we owe this visit to?"

Unable to contain herself anymore Charlotte's mother blurted, "We're here for Thanksgiving."

Charlotte's first thought was, Oh God, there's no food in the house. It dawned on her that there was no sign of turkey, no stuffing, no ten pound bag of potatoes waiting in the wings to be peeled. "Well, that is a surprise." Still wondering with Thanksgiving the next day, what they were going to eat.

"Yes it will be a regular Pilgrim experience."

Charlotte laughed. She absolutely loved visiting Plymouth Plantation and that first Thanksgiving wasn't any thing like what is depicted in all those children's stories. "What, 90 Wompanoag men are coming to our door, baring 5 deer and many fowl."

"Close, we're going to Plymouth for a Thanksgiving feast."

The girls were jumping about the kitchen screaming with delight. Sam, still a bit hung over, was a bit more jovial as he now stirred the scrambled eggs. And Charlotte was more delighted than them all put together. Were they in for the Victorian meal, the traditional American faire, or the rugged Pilgrim feast? Regardless, it was her dream to eat their. But how could you break with the tradition of cooking at home?

Her mother, her smile wrapped clear across her face said, "We've had this plan for weeks now. As soon as we heard you were pregnant, we made the reservation. Figuring you wouldn't really want to cook."

It was true. She didn't want to cook. And now with all her restrictions, she couldn't cook. Basking in the fullness of delight Charlotte replied, "You're right. And this is so wonderful. Thank you."

Her dad, lowering his guard for a moment added, "Don't thank us yet. The only feast we could get is the one were you eat with your hands."

Charlotte gave off a guffaw, while the girls cheered all the louder.

(17969 -- Some how I don't think this number will say 50000 in a week and a half...)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Part 50

A agitated knock at the door shattered the moment. As the words, "Who is it?" formed, Charlotte's mouth, and throat reemerged in the physical world.

"It's Jenny, I need to go."

Charlotte wanted to remind her daughter of the bathroom downstairs, but didn't. "Come in."

"It sure is steamy in here."

Getting back to the business of washing, Charlotte attacked her curly locks with some shampoo, and her fingers and scalp reappeared. She then ran her puffy scrubber over her legs, arms, before massaging her belly with gentle circles. Her skin tingled with the new citrus soap she had ordered from the Body Shop.

"Are you going to be in there all day?"

Charlotte thought to answer her daughter, yes, but instead asked why.

And simultaneously with flushing the toilet, Jenny gave her the answer she didn't want to hear, "Because Nana and Grandpa are ..... over." Her voice was muffled by the swirling water.

Charlotte nearly fell in the tub, trying to get her head out of the water stream and on the other side of the curtain. She had to make sure she had heard correctly. "Did you say Nana and Grandpa are coming over?"

"No, replied Jenny, this time the water from the faucet muffling her voice, "I said they are here."

On one dire exhalation she was all back in the physical world, and in no way prepared for what lay ahead.

(17193)

Part 49

Charlotte offered to help clean up the mess, but Sam wouldn't let her, ushering her upstairs into the bathroom for a shower, turning on the water for her before leaving her alone. Charlotte dropped her clothes to the floor and watched her rounding shape disappear as the mirror fogged over.

There are some days I wish I could just disappear. And stepping into the pulsating warm wash she imagined that as each soothing droplet splashing upon her, it erased tiny bit of her physical self. Until at the end all that could be left would be thought; no substance. She stood there allowing the back of her head and shoulders to disappear, then her ass before she turned around and sprayed the water full force in her face. Keeping her eyes closed so that as pure thought she'd still be able to see. She pictured her new self, a vaporous cloud with eyes. What will I need eyes for? The answer, "The better to see you with my dear," rumbled out of her throat.

She shook her spirited head and then washed away all physical sense of her legs and feet, and as she went to wash away her abdomen breasts she stopped. For the baby. Thoughts escaped for the baby. Dr. Houseman had been so worried about saving the mother, the wellbeing of the baby had been put on a back shelf. Now that she was stable, the tests would resume.

Warm, resounding choruses of, No Worries, filled her head. No worries, and then Bob Marley joined in with, "Every thing is going to be all right. Every thing is going to be all right. No worry no cry." It certainly was a more interesting place being a shower spirit.

(16958)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Part 48

The sweet song of chickadees dipped into Charlotte's unconscious and brought her back to her pink paradise. Wrapped up in her grandmother's quilt, she hadn't slept so long or so deeply for months. Maybe this chair isn't such a bad place after all. She didn't want to move. The feel of the warm upholstery cushioning her was a comfort.

"Mommy." It was Lovie. She had padded into the family room still in her purple plush footie pajamas. "Did you fall asleep in your chair?"

"Yes," giggled Charlotte.

"Daddy slept all sick."

Charlotte's jaw flew open. "Where is he?"

"At the bottom of the stairs."

Dear God, I hope he's all right. Had he fallen? Struggling to get out from under the quilt, she threw the covers off onto the floor and practically catapulted herself out of the chair. "Sam, Sam are you okay?"

Her passed out husband was sprawled out over the three bottom steps, head down, mouth just inches from a dried pool of vomit. When she saw him, it was all she could do not to get sick herself.

"See Mommy," said Lovie, "maybe it's a stomach virus."

Despite what she was facing Charlotte smiled at her daughter's innocence. "Yes, maybe it is a stomach virus." Then reaching over she gently touched his shoulder and shook him.

"Are you okay?"

Blurry-eyed and hung over, Sam answered, "I've been better."

(16670)

Another picture worth 1,000 words

Part 47

Charlotte was still up when Sam came through the door at 8:30 that night. She let out a sigh of relief before getting up from her pink chair sanctuary and as she walked into the mudroom, watched him close for any signs of staggering.

"Are you okay?" asked looking at her husband's back. Sam was half in and half out of the closet hanging up his coat.

A barely audible, "I'm fine," came out of the clothes.

"Where have you been?"

Still without facing his wife, Sam answered, "Where do you think?"

Immediately the words "A bar" shot into her head. They were front and center flashing like a neon sign right before her eyes. A shutter traveled through her. Should she admit that she thinks he failed? What would that mean? What would it do? Before she could put out any kind of an answer Sam turned around and shoveing his face right into Charlotte's yelled, "Where do you think, I've been?"

She turned her head to avoid the smell of gin, and whispered, "A bar, I thought you were at a bar."

"Glad I didn't let you down."

(16424)

I love this picture

New from a quick trip to Plymouth Plantation. I know it's just a bed, but the light and the dark speak to me. I walked into one of the homes, saw the light coming in the window and shot. That was it. Okay, I took two pictures. I absolutely love that place. I learn so much every time we go there. I see so many wonderful sites to photograph.

Part 46

Charlotte was back in her slice of pink heaven with her copy in one hand and a pen gripped in the other. Her mind was elsewhere. Wandering from townie bar to townie bar, trying to find her husband, when Jenny and Lovie walked into the family room.

"Mom," said Jenny, "Where's daddy? We want something to eat."

The words no cooking rattled in her head. But it was after 2 in the afternoon and Sam had been gone for three hours and ten minutes. "What do you think you want?"

"Noodles," said Lovie.

"Salami sandwich," said Jenny.

Standing up Charlotte thought I can do that. Neither is heavier than a cup of coffee. But as she headed to the kitchen, again she heard: No cooking. She argued back -- it's nothing.

But what about Sam? If she cooked anything it could negate his sense of purpose and his help. And what about herself? Is her need to control a situation a lot like drinking? Sure she could handle this one situation, but could she stop. Or would it set a precedent? With the mayonnaise in her hand, Charlotte turned to Lovie and asked, "Where's Sarah?'

"Upstairs doing homework."

Charlotte sat down at the kitchen table. "Would you go get her for me?"

Both girls ran off with Lovie screaming, "She told me to do it."

And as she waited for her oldest to appear, and rescue her from herself, Charlotte stared at the mayonnaise jar in her hand. It was heavier than a cup of coffee.

(16234)

Part 45

It was great to be home, but at the same time it was terrible. Sam had her sitting in the family room with her knitting to one side, the tv remote at the other, along with a bottle of water. The girls were being good, so that was one on the plus column. But the last time she attempted to do some writing Sam brought the kitchen timer over to her desk and gave her the look.

"What?" she barked, being stuck on the wording of a particularly long sentence.

"Three minutes."

"I'm sitting. It's just like sitting over there," she said pointing to her pink lazy boy thrown not ten feet away.

"Houseman said."

"I don't care what he said," sh e barked again.

Sam put the timer down and walked away. Her anger wasn't at him. It was really all about her senseless use of commas, and her insistence to write exactly how she spoke, on and on and on.
John was forever telling her to get to the point, and stick with it. This piece on Christmas cookies and the traditional cookie swap should have been wrapped up in the hospital. She selected to print the piece, pushed the keyboard away, pulled the copy out of the printer, then sought out Sam for forgiveness.

He was in the front hall.

"I'm sorry."

"You can't be this way for the next 25 weeks."

Charlotte knew what he was saying between the lines was: If she kept up this attitude that she would drive him right back to the bottle. She wouldn't become his excuse. "I won't accept the blame for your disease nor your choices." Why did Charlie and Angie have to go out of town now?

Sam bit his tongue. "I'm going out."

Charlotte didn't want to ask where. She didn't want know. Rubbing her head with her hand, pushing hard on her eyes, she shook her head okay. And as she watched her husband walk towards the door she called after him, I love you."

"I love you too, but right now I'm loving something more."

(15979)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Part 44

Three days to T-day. It had been three weeks in the hospital. Sam had been home alone with the three girls for the past three days. Getting them up, making the breakfast, packing two lunches while overseeing the third, putting them on the bus, well two of them, then going to his two to three meetings a day, food shopping, laundry, cooking or buying dinners, then tucking the three into bed. Three was a magic number. And today, three days from the family feast at three o'clock Charlotte was going home.

"No cooking, cleaning, lifting anything heavier than a cup of coffee..." Her discharge orders were three pages long and it seemed like Dr. Houseman was hell bent to read them all to her.

Charlotte interrupted trying for a bit of levity, "I can't have a Ben and Jerry's Vermonster?"

Without missing a beat he replied, "Keep it resting on the table until you get to the bottom of it. Then you can tip it into your mouth to drink the last remaining three drops."

There certainly were a lot of threes in her life right now.

"No driving, no laundry, no stress..." the doctor paused and looking over the top of his glasses said, "if you can't write without stress -- no writing." He continued on, "No volunteering at the school."

"Why, all I do is read at the library, shelve books..."

The doctor wrote and recited, "No shelving books."

He then switched his tune. "You may: rest, eat, sleep, sit at the computer for 3 minutes at a time, get yourself a timer."

Charlotte started to protest, but the doctor interrupted her. "You can get a lot done in three minutes," then continued his list, "watch TV, knit, do crosswords that do not come in books heavier than a cup of coffee. Am I making myself clear?"

His patient nodded. If it was the only way for her to get home, she would agree to anything.

"And no stairs."

"But my bedroom is on the second floor."

Doctor and patient stared at each other. Was this the straw that would break the back of the camel that was going to carry her home? Houseman sighed and pulled on his lips with his hand. He sighed again... "You can go up and down the stairs three times. That's 6 trips a day. After that no more.

There is a lot of power in the number three.

(15633) -- Getting there...

Part 43

It wasn't long after breakfast that the Panchot-Westing brigade invaded the hospital. This time instead of visiting Jenny, she was leading their charge, bursting through her mother's door singing, "I am Mrs. Turkey, Turkey, Turkey. I am Mrs. Turkey big and fat." Her sisters were close behind giggling. And following them, with two grande Annie's coffees, for Sam and Charlotte, were Charlie and Angie, neither smiling, both looking quite tired.

"When I walk I wabble, wabble, waaaabble...."

Looking at Angie, not to talk over her daughter's singing Charlotte mouthed,"Everything all right?"

Angie shot her a pensive smile.

"When I walk I wabble, what do you think of that?"

Laughter burst out of everyone, while Charlotte watched for signs of her daughter's paralysis. There were none. She was a walking miracle. Content to be among her family, she waved for the girls to crawl up on her bed with her. Lovie was the first up. Cozying up close, tucked tight to her mother's side. Next was Jenny, a little snarly that she wasn't first, and last was Sarah who happily grabbed the open spot by her mother's feet, and asked, "How's it going?"

"Everything is going to be fine."

"And the baby?"

Charlotte looked towards Sam, and then swept the crowd before saying, "Your brother is just fine."

"A boy," screamed Jenny, "We get to have a brother!" She was practically jumping up and down on the bed.

Sam put out his hand, "Careful Jenny, mommy still has to be careful."

"But we get to have a brother." Then turning to Charlotte she asked, "How do you know?"

"It's just a feeling your father and I have. Sometimes the parents know..."

Sarah, who had been listening to her iPod chimed in, "I thought parents weren't suppose to be having those feelings."

Charlotte couldn't tell if it was a joke or just a teen covertly spouting off about her apparent parental affections. With all the brain rewiring that takes place in the teen years it was tough to keep things sorted. As she went offer a retort, her cell phone started to ring from within the bedside table.

"I'll get it," offered Sam, his hand already in the drawer and pushing the accept call button. "Hello... No she can't talk now... No... No... I don't think she's up to anymore editting until further notice... Yes, I'll have her call you back. bye," and then hung up the phone.

Charlotte made a mental note to call John back later, but nothing was said further just then.
In the pregnant pause between the end of one conversation and the start of the next, in walked Dr. Houseman. Reaching for the charter, he announced with a bit of a flair, "Hail, hail the gang's all here!" The girls giggled some more.

"Looking good Charlotte." Then turning to Jenny right before dashing off said, "It's good to see you on the otherside of the hospital fence young lady."

Jenny smiled and waved her arm at him. He responded with a nod as he dashed off.

Charlotte noticed that Angie and Charlie, who had been keeping out of the mix, were still seemingly restless. She asked again, "Everything okay?"

Angie nodded again , but Charlie answered, "No."

Charlotte marveled at his honesty. "What's up?"

"We hate to do this to you, but we have to go to Dallas for a week or so. Angie's dad is expecting us for the holiday."

"We hate to leave, it being Thanksgiving and all" added Angie, "But..."

"There are no buts, " interrupted Sam. "Of course you'll go. We'll be fine. Won't we girls?"

The girls nodded their heads in a sing song kind of way, while Charlotte was hoping they wouldn't be eating turkey hospital style.