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


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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."


"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."


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.


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.


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.


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.


Saturday, December 01, 2007

... and for BazPhotogirl and EVERY OTHER MOM


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."